NJ thunderstorm blackouts could last until weekend, utilities warn
It's the middle of summer but for many people across New Jersey, the loss of power recalled the aftermath of an autumn hurricane or a winter nor'easter.
A brief but violent thunderstorm Monday evening left hundreds of thousands without power — and thousands may not get their lights and air conditioners back on until the weekend.
One company, JCP&L, said it could take until 11 p.m. Friday to restore power to the hardest-hit areas. But most of Ocean County could see power back on much sooner — by 11:30 Tuesday.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday told New Jersey 101.5's Deminski & Doyle that thunderstorm was among worst he has ever seen. He said the repairs could take until the weekend to be complete. He said he urged the company to "over communicate" and not over promise.
Murphy said residents without power should inform their utility companies and not assume that a neighbor has already called.
About 355,000 JCP&L, PSE&G and Atlantic City Electric customers lost power Monday. About three quarters of the outages were in JCP&L territory. Just before 4 p.m. Tuesday, the number of customers still in the dark had dropped to 142,000, about 70 percent of which were with JCP&L, which is often criticized for having the most outages for the longest periods of time after major weather events.
The number of customers who went dark was higher than the number who lost power during each of the snowstorms in March 2018 that left people in the dark for several days, prompting Murphy to direct the Board of Public Utilities to investigate.
The BPU held five hearings as a result of those storms and released a report with 30 actions that the utilities were required to undertake in future storms.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, criticized utility companies in general for leaving thousands without power for so long, saying that the "lack of rapid response is inexcusable."
“It seems like losing power for extended periods of time has become the new norm," Coughlin said in a statement. "Last night’s storm was not a hurricane. It was a thunderstorm. I refuse to accept that we simply lose power after almost every thunderstorm. I call on these utilities to take a close look at their procedures before, during and after storms and come up with a better plan of action. Their customers deserve that."
The next question for those still in the dark: When will the power come back? Neither PSE&G nor JCP&L would offer a specific timetable for restoration.
JCP&L, which had the most affected customers in Monmouth and Ocean counties, said in a statement that it faces more than a thousand "safety hazards," 140 road closures, extensive tree damage and flooding, which restricts their crews from access to the areas where repairs need to be made.
The utility said it will have about 3,000 workers on the job by Wednesday.
Power outages by utility
Power outage updates since Monday night. Number of customers without power.
JCP&L said it has redirected resources from the northern part of the state to Central Jersey. In addition to its own 1,100 linemen, damage assessors, hazard responders, forestry personnel, dispatchers and contractors, another 700 line workers and 275 hazard responders from its sister utilities are on their way to help.
PSE&G spokeswoman Rebecca Mazzarella said Tuesday the company was calling in bringing in workers from around the country and Canada.
"The restoration process is very complicated. We have people that have to go out and do lookups and then call in the field crews. We're still in that process of really kind of estimating the damage done," she said.
"The storm certainly was a lot stronger than anyone anticipated but I do like to say that PSE&G is constantly preparing and meeting before storms to make sure we have adequate teams on standby," Mazzarella said.
New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said the winds were not caused by a tornado.
"Monday night's damage path in New Jersey stretched for many miles. And I couldn't see any strong rotation within any of our storms yesterday. This was a classic "straight-line wind" event, spawned by a squall line of powerful thunderstorms. A sudden gust of 70+ mph is just as intense and destructive as a twister," Zarrow said.
More than 102,000 customers remained without power as of 7:45 p.m:
76,400 JCP&L customers were without power, mostly in:
- Burlington (North Hanover and Pemberton Township)
- Mercer (East Windsor and West Windsor)
- Middlesex (Helmetta)
- Monmouth (Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Long Branch, Manalapan, Manasquan, Marlboro, Middletown, Millstone, Neptune Borough, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Sea Girt, Spring Lake Heights, Tinton Falls, Upper Freehold, and Wall)
- Ocean (Brick, Jackson, Lakewood and Plumsted)
26,503 PSE&G customers were without power, mostly in:
- Burlington (Bordentown City, Edgewater Park, Lumberton, Mansfield, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Willingboro)
- Camden (Camden and Cherry Hill)
- Gloucester (Woodbudy)
- Mercer (Hamilton and West Windsor)
67 Atlantic City Electric customers scattered through its service area
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