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Hurricane Sandy blackouts hit millions. Can power companies cope?

With days of warnings that giant hurricane Sandy would hit the Northeast, power companies positioned supplies and thousands of extra line workers to deal with the onslaught of blackouts.

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“EEI is working with the Federal government, including FEMA and the Department of Energy and first responders to coordinate response,” Brian Wolff, senior vice president of the Edison Electric Institute said in a statement. “EEI’s member companies in Sandy’s path have mobilized thousands of storm and field personnel, and have called upon extra workers and resources from all across the country and as far away as Canada and Mexico, through the industry’s Mutual Assistance Network.”

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Utilizing the industry's "mutual assistance" pacts, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) had ordered extra power restoration crews and tree trimmers from Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Texas, Florida, California, and Iowa. Con Edison, serving New York, reported Sunday that more than 700 extra line workers, tree crews and damage assessors had been called in to help with storm restoration. Public Service Electric & Gas in New Jersey reported 1,179 contractors, linemen and tree crews on hand for outage response. Similar preparations were reported in North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia.

Other energy suppliers, too, were taking action as well. Refineries along the East Coast reported they were throttling back or shutting down operations.

Phillips 66 reported that it had shut down its 238,000 barrel per day refinery in Linden, N.J. Production was cut back at Philadelphia Energy Solutions’ 335,000 bpd refinery in Philadelphia, and PBF Energy’s Delaware City refinery with 182,200 bpd.

Nuclear power stations in the region were also reported to be taking extra precautions and added federal monitoring in the event grid outages were to leave the stations on backup power only to cool their radioactive cores, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington reported.

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