Will utilities meet Saturday deadline to restore power?
TRENTON — It's all hands on deck for JCP&L and PSE&G workers to meet self-imposed deadlines to restore power to those who lost it during the past two nor'easters.
The powerful winter storms brought down thousands of trees and branches onto power lines, plunging hundreds of thousands into darkness.
JCP&L on Saturday said its 10,000 customers who were still without power from the first nor'easter a week ago were on target to be restored by 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Those customers were the utility's first priority for restoration.
More than 5,000 people are working round the clock, according to the utility
PSE&G said most of its customers who lost power from Wednesday's nor'easter that dumped an additional two feet of snow in some areas would be back online Saturday.
As of 8:30 a.m., more than 62,000 JCP&L and PSE&G customers were still without power, according to their respective outage maps.
- JCP&L:49,340 customers mostly in Burlington, Essex, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties
- PSE&G: 13,083 customers mostly in Burlington, Essex, Somerset and Union counties
- Atlantic City Electric has restored most of its customers
Rockland & Orange, which serves Bergen and Passaic counties, said it would restore power to most of its customers by Sunday. More than 11,000 remained without power on Saturday morning.
PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson said the utility has brought in even more out-of-state help from as far as Indiana to clear away fallen trees and poles so that line crews can get in and make repairs. Crews are working out of staging areas in Clifton, Moorestown and Livingston, which are stocked with materials that can be accessed quickly to expedite repairs.
The utility is confident that all customers who lost power during Wednesday's nor'easter will be restored by Saturday.
"There will be a number of customers in areas with the most severe damage who may not be restored until Sunday," Johnson said.
Residents in hard-hit Lebanon Township in Hunterdon County, where most of the residents have been without power for a week, were not optimistic JCL&L will meet the deadline.
"It will be very disappointing if 11:30 p.m. comes and goes without Mt. Grove being restored," Adrienne Browne Dempsey wrote on the Lebanon Township Community Bulletin Board on Facebook.
"Almost everyone else on my street did not lose power in the second power failure," Jenn Moldave Birchby wrote. "Due to the small number of houses on this circuit I’m pretty skeptical that it will get restored any time soon. I’m very concerned we will get looked over because there are so few of us."
John Polizzano said two pine trees that came down on power lines during the first nor'easter have not yet been touched.
Carolyn Busch Pepperman said the utility needs to be investigated and called it "embarrassing" that long-term outages occur with less severe storms in Lebanon Township.
Other residents, like, Barb Gorish Brazina, criticized the company while praising workers on the frontline.
"This is the 4th time in 8 years that we have lost power for a week or more. These poor guys are sleeping in their trucks or on cots in tractor trailers😢 God Bless them & keep them safe," she said.
Political pressure intensified on JCL&L regarding its efforts.
Murphy this week called on the Board of Public Utilities to investigate the companies' response, particularly JCP&L's.
Chuck Jones, the CEO of JCP&L parent company FirstEnergy, assured Murphy this week that additional workers would be deployed to New Jersey.
"I remain committed to pursuing a full assessment and investigation into the storm response to find out what went wrong and to avoid future significant, long-lasting outages," Murphy said in a message on Twitter.
Lawmakers in Bergen County also have slammed Orange & Rockland. Republican Assemblymen Kevin J. Rooney and Christopher DePhillips faulted the New York company for "complete mismanagement and lack of preparation."
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, visited Green Township in Sussex County on Friday.
"It's a massive failure that thousands of North Jersey residents have been without power for a week now," he said in a statement. "I'm deeply thankful to our first responders, crews, emergency management coordinators, and mayors, who have worked hard to turn the lights back on, but we've seen massive mis-management among our utility companies and we need to stay on them."
“All I have heard from constituents in the hours since I have been home from Washington is how horrible JCP&L’s response has been in parts of New Jersey hardest hit by back-to-back Nor’easters," U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said in a statement. They are without power, without heat, and are justifiably angry. It is absolutely unacceptable."