How Con Ed Raced to Restore Power

Oct. 1, 2003
Stringing 26 miles of new high-voltage cable in a week-long around-the-clock effort to bring electrical power back to thousands of residents and businesses

Stringing 26 miles of new high-voltage cable in a week-long around-the-clock effort to bring electrical power back to thousands of residents and businesses near Ground Zero was one of the most critical elements of the recovery efforts following the World Trade Center attacks.

They brought in generators and were running about 26 miles of new cable, said Michael Clendenin, a Con Ed spokesperson. “This is…a temporary fix, and we're going to have to go back in and work for many months on making these repairs permanent. We lost two substations when one of the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. We're going to have to rebuild those. In the meantime, we're cutting off the World Trade Center section from the rest of the network and we're hooking up all the various networks that were hurt with the cable that we're laying over the ground.”

Clendenin said this restoration effort was one for the record books.

“It's a bigger job than anything we've encountered before, even the 1977 blackout. We're getting everything that we need, and we have all the personnel we need. Our workers are doing an extraordinary job getting the power back on as quickly as possible.”

Con Ed estimated that 1,900 of its workers were on the scene in lower Manhattan removing damaged cable at the two substations that were destroyed on Sept. 11, and splicing new power lines in an effort to build a temporary power system for the Financial District and surrounding area. According to one source, Con Ed is buying much of the power cable, terminating products and other components for the temporary wiring system direct from manufacturers.

At press time, many Con Ed customers in the area were still without power. Some of its largest customers, like the New York Stock Exchange, have their own temporary power systems.

Electrical manufacturers and distributors are ready to help Con Ed restore power when needed. As a provider of automatic transfer switches for emergency power systems, ASCO Power Technologies, Florham Park, N.J., is part of the government's emergency team for Ground Zero operations and has two command centers in lower Manhattan that are ready to help re-establish emergency power to the area.

“I have assured the Department of Energy that we will volunteer multiple teams of design and service engineers around the clock who will assist in the start-up and operation of emergency power systems,” said Armand Visioli, company president, ASCO Power Technologies.

Brian Phelan, the company's director of switch marketing, said many of the investment firms in the area have parallel processing centers now handling transactions, but that they want to rebuild their main systems.

One electrical distributor who does a lot of work with Con Ed through an integrated supply partnership said that in the early stages of the restoration efforts, Con Ed operated in a lock-down mode for security purposes.

Roy Haley, president, WESCO Distribution Inc., Pittsburgh, said although his company normally might have employees on site in emergency situations, because of the lock-down it wasn't possible in the early stages of the recovery efforts. However, WESCO has a 24-hour availability arrangement with Con Ed and is still shipping products to Con Ed crews working on “urgent, but not necessarily emergency activities,” he said.

“WESCO is the principle distributor for their distribution network,” he added. “We provide virtually all of their overhead line hardware, and a lot of their underground products, connectors and fuses for network protection. We were on alert since the day of the attacks. A lot of the activity right now is in batteries, flashlights, gloves and respirators, because they have their crews dedicated to this concentrated effort to get temporary power restored.”


Responding to a call for donations and supplies from the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), St. Louis, Mo., electrical distributors have provided overwhelming support to disaster relief efforts after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

NAED has received multiple requests from members for information on trust funds for the families of those lost in the disaster. One distributor employee died. Michael Lowe, a driver for Liberty Electrical Supply (A Division of WESCO) in Brooklyn, N.Y., was making a delivery at the World Trade Center when the buildings were attacked.

Liberty Electrical Supply has set up a memorial fund to benefit the family of Michael Lowe. To contribute to the fund, send your checks to:
WESCO Memorial Fund for the Benefit of the Family of Michael Lowe

P.O. Box 643253
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3253

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