Before Hurricane Sandy slammed into southern New Jersey, taking out power from Virginia to Maine, some utilities warned that power could take at least seven to ten days to restore.

In Long Island, it could be far more. A new outage management system currently being installed was no match for Sandy, which left 82 percent of Long Island Power Authority customers without power, affecting more than 920,000 at its peak. The storm took the dubious distinction of the worst power outage in terms of numbers in LIPA’s history, a title that was previously held by Hurricane Gloria in 1985, which caused 850,000 outages.

LIAP outages

Currently, about 100,000 customers have had power restored -- but that still leaves nearly 850,000 customers in the dark. LIPA reports that crews are repairing the “backbone” of the grid, including high-voltage power lines and damaged substations.

Although a state-of-the-art OMS, waterproof distribution switches or self-healing feeders could have maybe minimized some damage, the scope of the storm would still have devastating consequence. 

Over all there were more than 8 million people without power because of Sandy. That figure has been reduced by nearly 2 million already, with New Jersey and Pennsylvania making the most progress. For New Jersey, that still leaves more than half of the state’s electricity customers without power.

It will be weeks and maybe longer before utilities can tease out whether any technologies, rather than just old-fashioned tree trimming, allowed them to restore power faster to customers. But with 8 million customers -- which means far more individuals -- without power, public utility commissions should be asking hard questions about investing in smart grid technologies or distributed generation resources that could ease the restoration process.

For politicians in New York, there are already cries that there must be a new way of doing business when 100-year storms come every few years, as Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, said as the storm raged across his state.

"There has been a series of extreme weather incidents," Cuomo said on Tuesday. "That is not a political statement; that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns is denying reality."