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October 31, 2012

U.S. Utility Substations Were at Risk, Saw Damage from Hurricane Sandy

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

With utility substations at risk for damage because of flooding from Hurricane Sandy – one New England utility decided to build a wall to protect its infrastructure.

Meanwhile, an explosion at a New York City substation left hundreds of thousands of New York customers in the dark and equipment damaged from the storm.

On Monday, in New England, Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) built a six-foot concrete dyke to protect a substation in Stamford, Conn. Crews also placed sandbags to block water coming from storm surges.

The substation is located at the intersection of Manhattan and Dock streets in Stamford, according to the Stamford Advocate.

O&G Industries, a construction company, provided over 600 concrete blocks weighing 4,000 pounds so the wall could be built, The Advocate said. Crews sprayed foam into joints to prevent water from coming through, and it was later covered in plastic, the newspaper reported. Pumps were also used to drain any water that did manage to get through.

Stamford Patch reported that the sub- station provides energy to about 11,000 customers in the Stamford region.

The city is located on Long Island Sound, which had significantly higher waves from the storm and the presence of a full moon.

“The substation should be protected from any flood waters," CL&P president William Herdegen was quoted by The Advocate in a statement on Monday. "We decided with the expected storm surge being predicted that we should do something to help ensure it stayed protected."

Damage from Hurricane Sandy cut service to over a half million CL&P customers and some of those had their power restored by Tuesday - though many remained in the dark as of Wednesday morning, the company said in a statement.

One of the state’s other large utility companies, United Illuminating, de-energized three substations in Bridgeport on Monday – leading to the loss of power for about 52,000 UI customers, according to WFSB TV. It was a preemptive measure to protect the equipment in the substation.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Consolidated Edison, a utility, said that as of Tuesday some 800,000 customers in New York City and nearby Westchester County had no power.

Some 200,000 of these customers lost power after an explosion at a substation on 13th Street in Manhattan, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The utility pumped water out of the substation on Tuesday and some equipment was submerged, The Journal reported. Crews apparently were using rowboats to move around the flooded substation.

The explosion likely caused a short-circuit, and then wet control wiring mis-operated, leading to more people losing power, the company told the newspaper.

“It’s like the circuit breaker panel in your house being under water,” John Miksad, Con Ed’s senior vice president of electric operations, told The Journal.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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