Trailer City Rises at E.H. Airport to House Workers

On Thursday, support trailers and tents were set up at the East Hampton Airport to serve as many as 1,000 utility contractors who were due to arrive to work restoring electricity to eastern Long Island. Carrie Ann Salvi

A large self-reliant village has been set up at the East Hampton Airport on Industrial Road, Wainscott, as a temporary home with capacity for as many as 1,000 workers from around the country who began to arrive on Thursday. Many of the personnel, who have been brought on to get electricity restored to eastern Long Island, will sleep "ship style," three-high in large trailers.

The 36-per-trailer bunks have curtains, lockers, electrical outlets, and reading lamps. While the workers get some rest, their trucks are serviced and refueled on-site. Debris is removed, and are supplies reloaded. Trailers with hot showers, and cooking and laundry facilities are also provided.

Tents with long tables of hot food are set up by a contracted party rental company with workers from around the country. On Thursday, Tari Wilson, who is from Ohio, was setting up catering trays to be filled with beef stew. "We greet them and send them off with a smile, she said."

A spokeswoman for the LIPA media relations office said Saturday that 900 workers would be housed at the airport and that they would be deployed across Suffolk County.

Hurricane Sandy was "twice as bad as Irene," said Vinny Esposito, the staging-area's project manager, overseeing the work by Lexington, Kentucky-based Emergency Disaster Services on Thursday. For the Long Island Power Authority the 950,000 customers initially without power represented 90 percent of the utility's accounts, he said. As of 10 a.m. Saturday, the power authority's Web site was reporting 463,000 still cut off from electricity.

As of Saturday morning, LIPA was listing 2,200 without power in the Town of East Hampton, 7,700 in the Town of Southampton, and 222 on Shelter Island.

"There is rarely transmission damage," Mr. Esposito said, but from this storm, he said, there were "quite a few" major lines interrupted. The first day or two, he said, electricians had to restore power to the substations. Then, repairs could begin on the distribution system that carries it to the residences and businesses.

Mr. Esposito said electricians and tree-cutters are working "around the clock in 16-hour shifts" in what he called a restoration role. LIPA tries to hire local contractors, he said, but there simply are not enough in the region, so they have had to call on crews from across the United States.

On Shelter Island, workers' sleeping accommodations are at bed-and-breakfasts. They get lunch and dinner, such as burgers and spaghetti and meatballs at the central firehouse, as per the town's emergency plan, said Shelter Island Fire Department Chief John D'Amato. They also feed first responders and their families as part of the plan.

While managing the traffic flow of arriving tractor-trailers on Thursday, Ron Vulpis, a LIPA fleet manager, said that the level of East End damage is mild compared to the "extensive damage to poles, transformers, and wires" further up the Island.

Bunks were readied for workers at the East Hampton Airport.
Morgan McGivern