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Winter storm causes concern over Rockaway power supply

By Joe Anuta

The winter storm that carried fear and anxiety toward New York City last weekend brought about a foot of snow to Queens as thousands of households in the Rockaways lost power after the failure of temporary electrical infrastructure constructed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The disruptions and massive amounts of snow that plagued parts of Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts were not felt as harshly in the borough, where by Sunday it appeared nearly all of the roads in Queens had been plowed. The borough received between 6 and 15 inches of snow.

Many elected officials and civic leaders gave the Bloomberg administration a thumbs-up for its response to the storm.

Roger Gendron, president of the New Hamilton Beach Civic, said that while many of his neighbors are still struggling in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the storm did not bring a significant storm surge that would have caused flooding, though many moved their cars to higher ground in anticipation.

“They were nervous,” he said. “When you have possible coastal flooding, after what we went through, you do get nervous.”

Gendron said that many gas stations in the area had long lines before the storm hit and some stations ran out of fuel.

Down in the Rockaways, state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) said the storm had a relatively minor impact on the hardship many are still enduring every day. But it may have exposed some faults in how power is piped to the area.

After Hurricane Sandy devastated the peninsular group of neighborhoods and their infrastructure with a record storm surge, the Long Island Power Authority set up temporary measures to power the area.

LIPA is still working to repair a power substation in Arverne, and has what a spokeswoman called a non-standard transmission system installed in the interim. A problem at the substation that was later resolved caused 8,500 customers to lose power, but 4,500 customers had their lights on within a half hour and the rest within two hours.

Goldfeder expressed concern about the consequences if a more severe storm were to hit the area.

“While this storm wasn’t very serious, the next one might be twice as serious,” he said.

All day Saturday, residents all over the borough were either playing in the snow or toiling in it, depending on their age.

Chuck Fogarty, 5, and his sister Gabriella, 4, were sitting in a sled that was hauled by a friend up and down the middle of a snowy Hamilton Beach street — though shovels and snowblowers were slowly reclaiming the asphalt.

On the next street over, John Fazio was behind the wheel of a yellow tractor digging out the end of the road with a large shovel scoop attached to the front of the vehicle.

Snowballs flew across parks, streets and sidewalks throughout much of the borough, and hillsides from Bayside to Flushing Meadows Corona Park were dotted with giggling children on sleds.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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