Mundane tasks mark big job of putting lights on

AP News

11/5/2012 6:19:09 PM - AP News
HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) — Utility crews are racing to restore power to residents of northeastern New Jersey who have been sitting in the dark for a week.They've found task to be both mundane and monumental: Clean a bunch of gunk off electrical equipment with rags and cleaning spray.Sixty-seven thousand utility workers in the Northeast are working day and night on tasks they are familiar with: putting up telephone poles, stringing wire and replacing transformers. But Sandy's storm surge added another dimension by attacking the utilities' internal equipment. Switching stations, substations and underground electrical networks were inundated in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hoboken and elsewhere.But it's the sheer volume of work that is making the power outages last so long for some. At the peak, 8.5 million homes and businesses were without power. A week after the storm walloped the Northeast, 1.4 million customers remained in the dark, mostly in New York and New Jersey. Getting the power back on for all of them will take at least another week.At a site in Allendale, N.J., one huge tree had taken town five utility poles and 11 sets of wire. A Centerpoint Energy team of 15 workers and 8 trucks — one with a Texas flag flying from its crane — labored much of the day and into the night digging holes for the poles, raising them, and hanging new wire.Centerpoint worker Shane Pittman of Angleton, Texas, arrived with his crew on Oct. 29. He's no stranger to cleaning up after a hurricane, but this is his first hurricane cleanup that required winter clothing. But other than the number of trees and the cold, he says it was just like back home.