There was a story somewhere recently about how places like the Gaza Strip and other not-so-hot spots in the world cut electrical services to entire cities in order to save money and energy that may be in scarce supply. Somehow I don’t picture Gaza as a place where people are scrupulously, or for that matter unscrupulously, paying their energy bills every month like we do here.
For two weeks at the beginning of November 2012, when Hurricane Sandy had her way with us, large areas of New York, including our little sliver here in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway, were feeling a little—no, make that a lot—like the Gaza Strip.
It was shortly thereafter that I overheard my neighbor Idel Kolodny talking with a friend about how busy he and the company he is associated with—Electric & Beyond—are because of the great demand for generators. The Long Island Power Authority had demonstrated itself to be quite powerless in the face of nature’s fury, and for many of us the time had arrived to declare that we were mad as hell and were not going to take it anymore, or something like that.
I kind of missed the boat with Idel and the experts at E & Beyond when everyone was clamoring for generators, because my son-in-law, after a desperate national search, found one for me at a Home Depot somewhere out in the Midwest. That machine arrived only after the lights finally came on after a 12-day outage. It was an awful way to live, and then I suppose there was also a dab of post-traumatic stress, constantly anticipating that the lights would go out again.
Okay, so let me disclose it right up front here. I had my natural-gas generator installed by another company, and it just never worked properly. When it was set to switch on for its weekly test, it just never started. For weeks, I really didn’t know what to do, until I finally confessed to Idel one day that I think I needed his help. Yes, I admitted to him, I should have had him and E & Beyond do the work in the first place. I think those are the words he wanted to hear before he brought his crew over, and with a not-so-simple adjustment he got the thing to work.
Granted, a generator is a costly deal. But Idel Kolodny says that the company has been busy doing installations just about every day over the last six months, matching up generators with homeowners. No one wants to be caught up in that ordeal of living in darkness or by candlelight if it can be avoided in any possible way. And this is obviously the way—your own motorized power so that you do not have to live at the mercy of LIPA.
Yes, LIPA was brutalized during Sandy, completely unprepared and at a loss as to what to do. And that’s why Kolodny believes that it is so important for homeowners to get their generators before the next emergency.
He acknowledges that Hurricane Sandy and its devastating effect came about as a result of an unusual combination of circumstances. “Four cataclysmic events occurred all together on the same day,” Ideal explains. “There was a hurricane, a Nor’easter, high tide, and a full moon all on the same night,” he says. Many are still recovering from that odd convergence of nature.
But those with the foresight to have backup power in their homes sailed right through the entire ordeal as if almost nothing had happened—assuming their homes weren’t flooded. Sure, outdoors at night looked like Gaza on one of those off-power nights, but inside it was normal, everyday life, with the only difference being that you may have had a little more company than usual.
So what is LIPA’s problem and why can’t they keep the lights on here when there is too much rain or the wind blows more than 40 mph? Idel Kolodny says that LIPA is in complete and total disarray. He says that electrical linesmen who came from other states to help get Five Towns homes back online in November told him that they had not seen such shoddy electrical wiring in more than thirty years. “LIPA is broke, they have no money, and are servicing a $7 billion debt,” Idel says. They just do not have the resources to update the service they are charged with providing to the area they serve.
And that’s a frightening thought that means that on any given day if the wind blows too hard our electricity can go off for who knows how long. We do not necessarily need an Irene or a Sandy to throw things out of whack. I don’t know if you were here in Lawrence on erev Pesach, but we were just doing some things at home that morning when all of a sudden the lights went out. There was hardly any wind. But there it was, one second all was good, and the next moment it was lights out.
Frankly, even though we were on the move for yom tov, those few moments were more than a little disconcerting. On the one hand, none of us knew how long this was going to last—a few minutes or a few days. I didn’t know what happened until I spoke to Idel a few days ago and he told me that the erev Pesach outage was caused when a car hit a feeder station in the area.
I’m pleased to report, however, that while sitting there feeling slightly stunned, I heard that engine in the backyard kick in and begin to hum—and poof, like magic, all the lights went back on. It was humming back there in harmony with the other three or four generators that my neighbors now have, like some electronic tabernacle choir. It was a beautiful sound. I was so pleased, even excited, that I called Idel on his cell phone to proclaim throughout the land that the thing works and we have illumination.
Yes, it is an expense, no question about it. I know you’re wondering how much, so let me estimate for you that the entire deal, depending on the other preparatory work you need, can run $12,000–$15,000. But the good news is that you can purchase and install generators that do not energize the entire home. Idel Kolodny of Electric & Beyond advises that if you are interested, ask him about an essential current generator that in a blackout will power up some of the basics that you require in order to function instead of living in the dark like a modern-day caveman.
You know summer is coming, and that means hot weather, which is another form of stress for our already overloaded electrical infrastructure. And guess what the hot weather of summer is followed by: hurricane season, which begins on August 1. This is the season that you want Avi Goldfeder, Yitzy Novak, and Idel Kolodny of Electric & Beyond on your speed dial. Goldfeder explains that the company is a full-service, licensed plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning service company that can get it all done for you with one call. They are personable and easy to reach and, most important, they show up when they say they will. Relief and protection are out there and available at a reasonable cost.
When I think back to those few days at home in the cold and dark, I get this disgusted and sick feeling. I don’t want to feel like that again if I can help it. I have to publicly thank Idel and the boys at Electric & Beyond for being my electrical saviors. Don’t get caught short (or short-circuited). Your electrical destiny is in your hands. v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.