Murphy prepares for nor’easter, declares state of emergency

“Our paramount concern and overall goal is to ensure that all residents are safe and secure,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

Murphy ordered his first state of emergency, starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday, as the second big nor’easter in five days targets New Jersey with heavy, wet snow and high winds. That, even as more than 40,000 JCP&L customers have remained without power since the last storm hit on Friday and may not get it restored before the next storm.

“Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties, not only are they the four counties that are continuing to deal with these very frustrating, long-fused power outages, but they are also likely to be on the list of counties that, if the models are right, will get hit the hardest, particularly with snow and probably some high winds,” said Murphy.

Murphy said New Jersey activated its state Emergency Operations Center, and may shut down state government. He said 2,500 plows and salters are ready to roll, and that major roads have been brined.

Murphy asked residents, “Please do not venture out onto the roads during the storm. We ask you to stay home so road crews, whether they be state, county or local, can attend to their duties.”

Meanwhile, Tuesday morning in Byram, rural Sussex County, generators hummed and residents vented. They’re JCP&L customers angry over what they see as the utility’s lack of preparation for the storm, and miscommunication with residents.

“They’re going to get a black eye in this regardless. I have seen them over the summer, they are clearing trees, but I still think they’re having issues with their infrastructure,” said Byram resident Jimmy Oscovitch.

“I’ve seen on the internet, they’re saying by 11:30 p.m. tomorrow night, we’ll have power. That’s bull,” said resident Mark O’Grady.

JCP&L had requested “mutual aid,” and has outside companies giving assistance, including almost 300 PSE&G workers who pitched in to help restore power. JCP&L in its defense said, “As we continue to work through this storm, we will face new obstacles that cannot be predicted until crews are on-site. Additionally, while the storm brought down thousands of trees, branches and wires, it also weakened a lot of trees and branches, and some of those damages are becoming apparent as we work in the field.”

But, the governor in a tweet called JCP&L’s response unacceptable.

“I’m not an expert in the power business, but I feel if we had had a longer runway, maybe positioning equipment, maybe reaching out earlier to the other utilities that have augmented the staffing,” said Murphy.

After the next storm passes and power’s completely restored, the governor said his administration will conduct a postmortem to assess the utility’s performance.