The heavy limb of an ancient looking tree on a street ironically called Evergreen Place had pulled down a flange of power and telephone lines to a house in Maplewood, where the loud drone from a generator broke the morning silence.
A block away, another street occupied with more tree branches and covered with a carpet of fallen leaves was blocked with yellow caution tape, while more generators chewed away. Nowhere were there any signs of relief crews.
When Isaias hit Jersey, it was not rain or storm water that did the most damage. The high winds that accompanied the tropical storm knocked down thousands of trees and took power lines up and down the state, leaving over a million people without power.
As of noon on Wednesday, more than 930,000 people were still in the dark, and government officials and officials had no clear answer as to when power might return. At the governor̵
“The legacy of this storm will be a power outage,” Gov. Phil Murphy acknowledged during his recent coronavirus survey in Trenton. “This can be a number of days for people.”
Murphy declined to rate responses from aid companies in the wake of Isaiah.
“We are still in the third quarter of the game,” said the governor, who toured storm damage in a residential area of Jackson on Wednesday. “We’re doing a postmortem.”
He also said that the state is investigating getting federal disaster relief.
However, R-Union State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick called for a special legislative session to find ways to avoid such major power outages.
“There has been a lot of discussion about investing in our power grid infrastructure,” said Bramnick, who is considering running for the Republican nomination to challenge Murphy, a Democrat, in next year’s gubernatorial race. “It’s time to move on.”
The long and crazy wait for so many utility customers to get their power restored is like an endless story in a state with overhead lines and more than 912 million trees.
Last year, a series of severe thunderstorms shattered the state and wreaked havoc on New Jersey’s power grid. Last year, tens of thousands more were without power after a similar line of summer storms that had hit the heels of a major noreaster and then a snowstorm earlier that year, prompting the governor to later order a state inquiry into how New Railroad responded to winter storms.
Assessing the current situation in New Jersey, the State Department of Public Assistance Joseph L. Fiordaliso predicted that some who lost power may not be restored until this weekend.
“New Jersey was literally looted and it really made its mark throughout the state,” the state regulator explained. “The whole state was destroyed.”
One of the reasons for the state’s vulnerability is that so many communities are connected to the network by overhead lines, and New Jersey itself has many suburban tree-lined streets – often planted with older trees that are often susceptible to strong winds.
When they come down, they take wires with them.
It takes time to fix. Repairing wires dropped by trees is always a labor-intensive job, say officials, noting that fixing a wire carried to the ground by a falling tree limb sometimes only restores service to a single home.
If there are tens of thousands out because service to a home was knocked out by a heavy branch – yes, do math. A crew may be able to restore only one house at a time.
Simply clearing the roads of trees to allow repair crews in the neighborhood has also delayed restoration, Fiordaliso said. He added that it was not just the distribution systems for services – the lines that go down the streets and transport electricity to homes and businesses – that suffered damage.
“The transmission system has also been significantly damaged,” he said.
SEE WHERE THE POWER IS STILL
Public Service Electric & Gas Co.
Jersey Central Power & Light Co.
Atlantic City Electric Co.
Rockland Electric Co.
Power to New Jersey comes from a mix of generational stations, all connected to a regional power grid – a highly interconnected and intricate network designed to allow tools to share electricity and back up each other. They supply power over high voltage power lines that serve thousands of customers over large areas. Stations then disconnect power from the high-voltage power lines and send it at a lower voltage distribution system to neighborhoods and industrial areas.
Jersey Central Power & Light over the years has been particularly susceptible to power outages as there are many trees and wooded areas throughout its service area, and falling branches are the most common cause of blackouts. It remained the hardest hit tool on Wednesday, with more than half a million of its 1.1 million customers still out of service by noon.
“When we have a storm of this magnitude and winds of this strength – when we have that kind of catastrophic effect, the probability is that the infrastructure will be damaged,” said JCP & L spokesman Cliff Cole. “The goal is to get the service back as quickly as we can.”
He acknowledged the frustration of the customers, but said it is often a multi-day process.
The tool, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. in Akron, Ohio, has often been under fire in recent years for its reliance on external assistance, its out-of-state management, and questions about its performance.
JCP & L set up staging sites in Jackson Township, Oceanport and Livingston before the storm, and said it also brought in 740 line workers, 725 forest contractors, 270 risk responders and 75 damage assessors.
Public Service Electric & Gas Co., which still had nearly 300,000 of its 2.3 million customers out of service by noon, said Isaias may have been among the strongest storms to hit its service territory in recent years, and that some disruptions may last for an extended period.
“We can not project restoration times until we have had a chance to assess the damage,” said spokesman Michael Jennings.
Atlantic City Electric Co., which serves the southern part of the state, reported approximately 67,900 customers without service until Wednesday afternoon. Spokesman Frank Tedesco said that the very high winds with winds exceeding 65 km / h threw trees and took down limbs that lost power lines and damaged electrical equipment. The tool also saw the loss of several transmission lines and was also affected by winds from a tornado that was confirmed in parts of Cape May County.
The tool has crews from its sister company Exelon, ComEd in Chicago, which is helping with its recovery efforts, and said they received additional mutual assistance from companies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Canada.
Atlantic Electric said it hopes to restore services to most customers by the end of the day Thursday, having power back for all customers – including those in the most damaged areas – by Saturday night.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the constant power outages put people and communities at risk and hurt the economy. He demanded investment in better technology rather than directing more power transmission lines to the state.
“Every time we have a storm, the power goes out. “The damage and disruption caused by this tropical storm is a clear example of why we need to modernize and fix our network,” he said.
Fiordaliso said the state had prepared for the worst when Isaias began tracking down New Jersey.
“Unfortunately, we experienced the worst. Our happiness ran out, ”he said, noting that at the top of Superstorm Sandy, which caused historic damage to the state, 2.7 million utility customers were without power.
At the peak of Tuesday’s storm, 1.4 million people were in the dark.
“New Jersey was probably one of the hardest hit states,” said the BPU president.
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staff writer Brent Johnson contributed to this report.
Ted Sherman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL.