By Briana Vannozzi
Ten days after the storm, and crews are still sifting, sawing and clearing Gloucester County towns of the devastation left in its path.
“Fences went down, shingles went off, siding went off, trees went down,” said Gibbstown resident Danny Ruggieri.
In less than 20 minutes, 85 mile-per-hour winds walloped South Jersey, knocking down thousands of trees and knocking out power to 280,000 residents.
“The state was nowhere to be found. We called the state multiple times. I finally received a phone call back from the state on Friday morning. This is two days later. That’s completely unacceptable,” said East Greenwich Township Mayor Dale Archer.
It was the state’s delayed response after cries of help flooded the governor’s office that really has blood boiling down here.
“I think it’s a shame it took nine days to get the executive branch of the government down here to town,” said Greenwich Township Mayor George Shivery.
Shivery was among dozens of municipal leaders and state cabinet members at a closed door meeting yesterday to discuss the damage and cleanup with the lieutenant governor.
“It’s going to be a long cleanup and hopefully we get the FEMA money coming in which is going to take the governor to make a declaration,” Shivery said.
Both Republican mayors endorsed Gov. Christie in his two gubernatorial bids, but after this, they say he’s lost their support.
According to the county, the total cost of damages as of today is about $11 million — just shy of the $12.4 million needed for federal assistance, though officials expect to hit that mark.
“It would have been an easier process if a declaration of disaster was called immediately to include a state of emergency, which was well deserved in this case,” Archer said.
That declaration would have provided immediate on-the-ground personnel and badly needed assistance. Instead, police and municipal crews worked around the clock draining resources and the budget.
“We had great difficulty clearing roads because a lot of wires were entangled in the trees and the poles were down. By Wednesday, the following day, Atlantic Electric was nowhere to be found. We still made multiple phone calls,” said East Greenwich Township Deputy Mayor Jim Philbin.
A state investigation is now being conducted into the utility Atlantic City Electric, and the lag time for restoring power. In a response today, a spokesperson said, “We will perform a comprehensive internal review of our processes to find ways to improve our efficiency and our communications. … We will work with the Board of Public Utilities to address any questions that it might have.”
“Not only did I lose respect for Gov. Christie, more importantly I guess for him is he lost my vote,” Archer said.
So steady progress continues to restore these towns back to good working order, but it seems the governor’s office is just in the first leg of its own cleanup.