NEW YORK (AP) – Days after electrical power was restored to northwest Queens, utility crews were still working Saturday to repair hundreds of underground cables unearthed in a feverish attempt to end a 10-day blackout.

“They’re working round the clock, and we’re asking customers in northwest Queens to conserve power,” said Consolidated Edison spokesman Chris Olert.

In Queens, 36 generators bolstered Con Ed equipment while crews performed permanent repairs on cables that had been fixed with what Olert called “shunts” to keep the system operating.

The utility warned that customers might lose power for minutes at a time as crews switched them from generators to the permanent grid.

The work is yet another sign that Con Edison’s problems in New York didn’t end Wednesday, when power was restored to all but a handful of Queens homes following a long, hot blackout that had affected as many as 100,000 people.

On Friday, a rainstorm knocked out power to 2,000 of the utility’s customers on Staten Island, affecting as many as 10,000 people. And about 9,900 Staten Island customers lost power on Thursday when power lines were knocked over in another storm.

Only eight Staten Island customers remained without electricity on Saturday, the company said.

City Council hearings on the blackout are scheduled for Monday, while a state Assembly hearing is scheduled for Thursday. On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, demanded an investigation of the utility’s power grid capacity and infrastructure.

“It’s clear we need an independent assessment of what ails the power grid before we have another blackout,” the senator said in a statement.

On Friday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, toured the affected Queens streets and called the outage “a classic case of blunder after blunder.”

Clinton asked the president to declare the neighborhood a disaster area, a step that could trigger federal aid.

Officials working for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who resisted taking that move, said they don’t believe the aftermath of the blackout meets federal criteria for a disaster.

New York Gov. George Pataki asked the federal government to offer low-interest disaster loans to Queens residents who suffered heavy losses.

“I still firmly believe that the primary responsibility for these costs should be shouldered by Con Ed and not the taxpayer,” the governor said.

In the past two weeks, with summer heat stretching utility capacity, outages have crippled areas of the country from Missouri to Arkansas to California.

Olert, the Con Ed spokesman, would not speculate on whether there might be other areas of the city at risk of the kind of blackout that hit Queens, but said the utility is monitoring the system.

The company still isn’t certain what caused the outages, but has said it is possible that record demand for electricity to run air conditioners and refrigeration during a heat wave caused multiple circuits to fail.

The repairs performed on the system “are holding, but they’re temporary fixes,” said Olert.

Temperatures through next Wednesday are expected to reach well into the 90s, according to the National Weather Service. And a lengthy heat stretch, Olert said, “creates the potential for equipment to get hot.”



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