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Most of Central Jersey left without power in Sandy's aftermath

10:06 AM, Oct 30, 2012   |    comments
Edison, NJ - Edison firefighters battle an early-morning house fire with live wires down on Heathcote Avenue, Tuesday, October 30, 2012, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. JASON TOWLEN/Home News Tribune / Jason Towlen/Staff Photographer
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Power is out to most of Central Jersey as residents begin to wake up to the remnants of Sandy.

PSE&G reports that Hurricane Sandy has impacted more than 1.2 million customers, making it the largest storm in PSE&G history. The walls of water created by the storm surge flooded a large number of substations along the Passaic, Raritan and Hudson rivers, disrupting service for about 462,000 customers in Hudson, Essex and Middlesex counties.

The magnitude of the flooding in contiguous areas is unprecedented, according to the company. PSE&G had to take these stations out of service and will have to wait for the flood waters to recede before officials can assess the damage, dry out the equipment, replace equipment when necessary and re-energize the system to restore service. It will be a slow, painstaking process, according to the company.

PSE&G has assembled a "virtual army" of more than 1,550 technicians -- 600 PSE&G workers and 950 workers from across the country -- plus an additional 600 contractors to cut and remove trees. PSE&G is beginning to dispatch crews this morning now that the high winds have started to subside. In a number of areas, restoration work may be delayed until flood waters recede.

"PSE&G will be working around the clock to assess the damage and restore service," said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president. "Given the destructive nature of this storm, however, some customers may be without service for seven or more days. Our urban centers were especially hard hit as a result of substation flooding. One of our first priorities is to get those stations back in service."

Crews helping in the restoration efforts have come from Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia and New Jersey, as well as Canada.

Along Route 27 in Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties, in Metuchen in Middlesex and Bridgewater and Somerville in Somerset County, numerous street lights are out, and downed trees are blocking roadways, making driving hazardous.

In Edison, firefighters are battling a house fire on Heathcote Avenue. They would not confirm whether live wires were the cause.

Virtually all of New Brunswick is without power, including the Rutgers campus and dorms. A large downed tree is blocking all traffic near the center of College Avenue.

There are no working traffic lights on Route 27 between Henderson Road in Franklin and downtown New Brunswick. There are several downed trees and badly leaning telephone poles on that stretch of roadway and Route 27 is closed south of Henderson Road.

There also is no access being permitted into New Brunswick coming from Easton Avenue in Franklin, and countless road signs and town directional signs are knocked down and blocking parts of roadways.

In Perth Amboy, Mayor Wilda Diaz sent out an advisory this morning saying that there are trees and power lines down throughout the entire city, and that the waterfront sustained severe damage.

"As much as I understand that people want to travel and leave their homes, the State of Emergency on a State and Local level is still in effect," Diaz noted in her statement. "The City and local businesses are all closed due to the lack of power. Residents are directed to stay in their homes for their own safety, while our police and department of public works evaluate the extent of the damage throughout our city."

She asked residents to stay off the road because traffic lights are not operating and many stop signs are missing.

"I strongly urge that you stay in your home and assess the damage of your property," she said.

The Department of Public Works is currently out working clearing roads at this time, to ensure the safe passage of emergency vehicles. Protocol is to clear all major roadways first. Our staff is essentially following snow removal procedures. We ask residents to remember to assist their neighbors and the elderly or those who may require assistance with clearing off their property."

To report downed lines, trees and/or substantial damage, residents are asked to call their local police departments.

PSE&G says it will be ready to respond to outages as soon as it is safe to work in bucket trucks and other equipment. Flooding and downed trees also can make it hard for crews to get to damage locations. The utility is working closely with towns and counties to clear roads.

The number of utility workers and contractors who will be restoring service once the strong winds subside is now at 1,550 - 950 of them from outside New Jersey to assist PSE&G's own contingent of 600 linemen. PSE&G has also secured 526 tree contractors to clear damaged trees and limbs from power lines. Crews have been arriving from Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia and New Jersey, as well as Canada.

My Central Jersey Staff Report

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