During our trip to New York last week, we wanted to get from Manhattan out to Long Island. Between gas shortages, tunnel closures, power outages, non-working traffic lights, uncertain commuter train schedules, and blocked roads, we weren’t sure how good an idea this was. But the Hertz outlet four blocks down the street from us had cars. From there, we could hop on the FDR Drive, go over the Triborough Bridge, and be on the island. Plus, at the end, we could return our car as is, not worrying about 3+ hour waits to refill the gas tank. So off we went.
It was Sunday morning. Traffic was light. Soon we were over the bridge into Queens, past LaGuardia, onto the Long Island Expressway, and headed east. There were few signs of the storm from the road itself. As we passed from Queens into Nassau County, we could see a caravan of orange trucks filling the middle lane of the expressway ahead. Maybe a dozen long, all from Asplundh, which I’ve long known as a tree service company, but only now learn is specifically focused on clearing lines for power companies.
Since 1928 the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. has been dedicated to safe, efficient and innovative line clearance services to the utility industry. Reliable, uninterrupted power is an important service provided by the world’s electrical utilities and Asplundh has the expertise to help keep the power flowing. …
As a full-service utility contractor Asplundh performs tree pruning and removals, right-of-way clearing and maintenance, vegetation management with herbicides and emergency storm work and logistical support.
A few miles later, we pulled off the expressway onto local roads. Heading down one, we understood the purpose of the caravans. On this heavily wooded road, another caravan of Asplundh trucks was spread out over a stretch of about a half mile, turning the two-lane road into an alternation of one- and two-lane stretches, with wood chips and debris all over as they removed giant branches and downed trees.
Soon we were at our family home. The yard had taken a beating. Above, you can see a tree down in the front yard. Fortunately, it fell toward the street. To the back, a tree fell toward and partly onto a corner of the house, pulling power lines with it. More than that, the pressure on the lines split a telephone pole. The lower third stuck up from the ground. The upper two-thirds fell to the ground, along with a transformer, as pictured below.
In late afternoon, as we left the house, we could hear a crew working a little farther down the line. Soon they came to the house and discovered the downed transformer. That was six afternoons ago. Two days later they had a new pole and transformer up. Only this afternoon was power restored, six days after they began work in the neighborhood, twelve days after Sandy came through.
Our drive back into Manhattan was uneventful. The Asplundh caravan was gone, the road we passed them on now clear. Traffic lights were still out, with a detour in place at the big intersection of the main north-south road and the east-west Long Island Expressway service road in order to manage traffic flow. (The north-south road is some 7 lanes wide. A simple stop-and-go pattern wasn’t going to work well. Westbound traffic was forced to turn north, with the option a few hundred yards later of turning back south in order to get across the intersection.) Once through the detour, we entered the Expressway, headed back into Queens, over the Triborough, and onto FDR Drive to go south along the East River. I should have gotten off at 96th, but instead got greedy and stayed on, aiming for an exit closer to Hertz, only to encounter our only traffic of the trip. One mile and 15 minutes later, we exited, drove up 1st Avenue, down 2nd, and into Hertz. Easy trip.
Northern Nassau County got hit pretty hard, but we knew we hadn’t seen anything near the worst of it. We are thankful for all the crews from around the country who have been working tirelessly to clear roads and restore power.