State of emergency remains in effect during winter storm

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Outside of the ROIC, the police operations center, Gov. Phil Murphy held a storm briefing Wednesday afternoon. He said the state of emergency he declared at 5 a.m. is still in effect in all 21 counties.

“Our main concern with this storm is its impact on this evening’s commute because of the anticipated change from snow to a wintry mix just in time for folks to be leaving work. If you did go to work today and you can get out a little bit early to spread the commute so fewer people are out there at the same time, please consider doing so,” Murphy said.

There was no loss of life Wednesday in the state as a result of the storm, Murphy said around 2 p.m. Pemberton Township Police later reported two people died in a crash during the storm, but the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

As of this evening, a state police ban on commercial trucks on major interstates was still in effect.

“We take a little heat with regards to commerce, but one of those jackknifed tractor trailers interrupts commerce as well and sometimes leads to long, prolonged lane closures. So I just stress that those travel restrictions aren’t something that we enter into lightly,” said New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said there were 2,000 trucks out treating the roads. The head of the Board of Public Utilities said only 220 homes reported losing power.

Ever since a medium-sized storm in November paralyzed the state, Murphy has been aggressive about storm preparation. Some subsequent storms have been duds, and he’s been criticized for overpreparing. The severity of Wednesday’s storm was about what Murphy expected, he said.

“Some of these storms come out about where you think they’re going to come out, and some of them don’t,” Murphy said. “This is pretty much almost exactly what we expected.”

A reporter told the governor his television station has been bombarded with social media posts saying both the governor and the station have been overhyping these storms.

“If this is the difference between getting a son or a daughter on a school bus, or whoever, home safely, or a mom or a dad home safely from work, and we can do that and that can touch as many lives in this state, then we’re going to err on the side of being better prepared and being cautious,” Murphy said.

A ban on commercial trucks was still in effect Wednesday night on Interstates 280, 80, 287, 195 and 295. If you were on the roads around the western part of the state the middle of the day, you’d probably be saying this storm lived up to its hype.