86,000 still without power in NJ after storm

July 2, 2012 8:27:27 PM PDT
Nearly 86,000 residents of southern New Jersey were still without power on Monday morning, and some may not be restored until Friday, nearly a week after the storms hit, according to utility officials who said Sunday that the damage was more severe than what Tropical Storm Irene wreaked last summer.

Atlantic and Cumberland counties are the hardest hit. As of Monday afternoon, Atlantic City Electric said it had more than 50,000 without power in Atlantic Co. while another 15,000 were in the dark in Cumberland Co.

At the storm's peak, about 206,000 customers lost power.

Atlantic City Electric continued to make good progress in its restoration efforts, thanks in part to help from crews from several utilities in northern New Jersey and New York, said spokesman Matt Likovich.

But, citing the devastation caused by the storms, Likovich warned that some customers may not have electrical service back until late Friday. He said priority was being given to hospitals, fire stations, water filtration plants and police stations.

People living in the hardest hit areas say they are stunned by the amount of damage.

"I've never seen anything like it. I've lived here, it'll be 34 years, and I've never seen anything like it," said Michele Doyle of Egg Harbor Twp.? "This has been a nightmare, a complete nightmare."

Christine Whitman has a severely disabled daughter.

"She was supposed to start school today at Atlantic County Special Services. The school is out of communication, no one can reach the school, no one has called us obviously because they must not have power either. So, I have a disabled child home now with no power," said Whitman.

As work continued to restore power, residents were being urged to stay away from all downed wires, even if they don't appear to be active, and to not disrupt utility crews.

Atlantic City Emergency Management says there are two cooling stations open Monday.

They are:

Alder Ave. School in Egg Harbor Twp., which opens at 12:00 p.m.
Brigantine Community Center, which is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The view from the Action Cam and Chopper 6 HD showed trees on houses and cars and power lines still down along some roads.

States of emergency remained in effect in Atlantic County and in several municipalities.

"I can't recall a storm like this, the type of damage we're dealing with," said Vince Maione, the chief operating officer of Atlantic City Electric. He said that while Irene produced more outages when it hit in August, the degree of damage was greater from this storm, adding that many repairs will require work beyond the typical steps of clearing trees or minor fixes.

Meanwhile in Vineland, police had to be called in to calm residents at the Vineland Hills Mobile Home Park where the storm caused devastating damage.

Rosie Martinez crawled out of what was left of her trailer with a broken leg after a tree smashed her home during the storm.

"She was sleeping, so the tree fell and hit her leg and she had to jump out the window," translator Lucy Morales explained

Vineland's Office of Emergency Management is handing out ice and water and the Red Cross has set up an air-conditioned shelter at the Wallace Intermediate School.

But the trailer park residents don't want to leave what's left of their homes.

Mayor Robert Romano says the city including police and municipal utility crews are doing all they can to get Vineland back to normal, but this weekend's storm was unlike anything the city's had to deal with before.

The number of customers without power is down to fewer than 5000 from 18,000 Saturday morning.

"It sounded like a freight train running through the neighborhood, the winds were just howling," Mayor Romano said.

Chuck Naliwinski was pleased with how quickly crews came to work on his block.

"Everything was down, you couldn't go nowhere. I give these electric companies credit because it's only Monday and they've come along, they've done a great job," Naliwinski said.

And in many cases, friends and neighbors are pulling together. Richard Huston finished cutting up the fallen trees on his own property and then brought his chainsaw over to help a friend.

Strong winds from the storms that began late Friday toppled trees onto cars and blocked roads from Indiana to New Jersey and south to Virginia. More than 3 million people lost power and 13 were killed. Unlike a hurricane that moves slowly enough for cleanup crews to get into place ahead of time, the storm's lack of warning was expected to complicate efforts to repair damage.

Gov. Chris Christie, who toured the area Saturday, asked residents to be patient amid the tough conditions. He also assigned the National Guard to deliver fuel for generators and water.

The storm was blamed for the deaths of two boys, ages 2 and 7, in Salem County. They were camping at Parvin State Park in Pittsgrove with their families when a pine tree fell on their tent. The boys suffered serious injuries and died shortly afterward, authorities said. They were identified only as being from Millville and from Franklin Township.

Winds associated the storm also apparently sparked a fire that damaged a 104-year-old church in Longport.