WOODBURY - The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) says it may have to raise rates to cover the $176 million cost of Tropical Storm Irene's aftermath.

LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey says the figure includes bringing in 7,500 workers to restore power to the 523,000 customers who were left in the dark, and the cost of hundreds of utility poles and other equipment.

Hervey believes that 75 percent of the storm costs could be covered by federal disaster funds. That leaves about $44 million that would have to be paid by LIPA, which could potentially result in rate increases.

Last year, the utility spent more than $200 million responding to storms, but avoided raising rates. Former LIPA official Matthew Cordaro says this time around, customers may not be so lucky.

However, some Long Islanders say LIPA should swallow the bill for Irene since many of them spent days without electricity.

Customers may have to wait until the end of November to find out if they will face a rate increase.

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