By Brenda Flanagan
JCP&L line trucks in Union Beach mobilized for battle, loading replacement poles on trailers. The utility has powered up more than 700 of its own crews plus outside contractors as this blizzard blows in from the south, threatening high winds, heavy snow and coastal flooding.
“It’s going to be a significant event, especially with the winds. Some of the snow may be wet, which pulls on the trees, yanks them down and then hits the power lines and we have outages,” said Bill Puchik The Manager at JCP&L.
“Predictions of sustained winds of around 40 mph, as well as gusts to over 60 — particularly along the shore of our service territory. With that there will be some power outages. But as I said, we have brought resources in and we’re prepared to deal with them,” said Jim Fakult President of JCP&L.
On top of the blizzard, the Jersey Shore prepared for a storm surge riding in on high tides boosted by a full moon.
“The big thing we’re concerned about with 22 coastal towns are the tidal flooding and the tidal surges. We look at them to be about two to four feet above what is normal. Probably most intensity arriving in terms of flooding with high tide tomorrow evening around the 7 o’clock hour,” said Sheriff Shaun Golden of Monmouth County.
After Sandy’s storm surges devastated its substations, JCP&L did act to harden and protect them from shore flooding.
“So we have flood protective walls up in place, we have high-speed pumps, we have monitoring equipment, cameras. So we got all of the plans in place along the Shore,” Fakult said.
According to Flight Aware, Newark Airport reported 10 percent of its flights had been grounded by mid-afternoon and more than 75 percent of tomorrow’s flights had already been canceled. The state DOT’s been salting highways in advance of the storm, and the NWS advised travelers to stay off the roads tomorrow. Meanwhile, blizzard warnings prompted the governor to cut short his New Hampshire campaign schedule and head back home to New Jersey.
“They’ll feel better if I’m there. So I’m going to go back this afternoon. You’re going to be the last event I do today. I’m going to go back this afternoon and I’m going to try to go back on Sunday. We’ll see how conditions look like after tomorrow, and if they’re like I think they will be — which is plowed and under control — it’s the weekend and nobody’s having to run anywhere, then I’ll come back on Sunday,” Christie said.
But it could take longer than that to restore power outages. It’s unsafe for linemen to go up in buckets if winds exceed 35 mph.
Utilities urge residents with generators to make sure they’re outside and 20 feet away from the house to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Utility companies urge residents to plan for outages — get water, a radio and flashlights with batteries. Charge your cell phone. And if the lights go out, report it immediately.