EWING – Gov. Phil Murphy directed the state Board of Public Utilities is going to investigate how power companies responded to the winter storms of the last week that were particularly crippling in northwest New Jersey.

Murphy said temporary power outages are to be expected from heavy snow and small winds but that it’s “completely and wholly unacceptable” that thousands of customers have been out since last Friday – 17,000 as of midday Thursday.

“And in particular I have to say JCP&L’s apparent lack of readiness remains a major issue that must be and will be looked into further,” Murphy said at a news conference on the New Jersey State Police campus.

Murphy and BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso said the state will closely examine whether the promises and plans made after Superstorm Sandy were kept.

“We will look to see if all preparedness measures were taken before last Friday knowing an event, a major event, was coming,” Murphy said. “My gut tells me they weren’t. And if they have not been, this is entirely inexcusable.”

JCP&L president Jim Fakult, at a news conference in Summit, said the utility was ready but that two major storms hit in quick succession. He said he had spoken personally with Murphy.

“I think he understands the magnitude of the destruction, the magnitude of the storm. I think we all share his frustration that we still have 17,000 customers from Friday out of lights,” Fakult said.

“I think there’s going to be time to talk about preparation. We were prepared for that first storm. We had brought staffing in. We had warned customers 24 hours in advance to be prepared for weather,” he said.

Fakult said more than 2.5 million customers along the East Coast were affected by the first storm, so other utilities couldn’t send needed reinforcements.

Murphy said that eventually 30 other utilities sent in help. He thanked utility crews for working hard to restore power, including some who came from as far away as Alabama to help out.

Murphy spent Thursday morning in Sussex County, which was among the hardest-hit areas. He said Assembly Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, had emphasized that out-of-state line workers had said the power lines were in closer proximity to trees than in their home states.

The BPU issued a directive saying all New Jersey-based utilities’ crews must remain in state until all customers impacted by the two recent winter storms have their power restored – which won’t be until Saturday or later, for some.

“It’s our in-state utilities that should get that help first,” Fiordaliso said. “And once they are stabilized, those utilities can send them out to help other jurisdictions. But New Jersey has to be number one.”

After the first storm, Atlantic City Electric sent line workers out of state to help with recovery, then pulled them back and deployed about three dozen into the JCP&L service area.

Assembly Republicans said Murphy should send in the National Guard to help with recovery efforts.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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