FLEMINGTON, NJ – At their meeting this week, Hunterdon Freeholders received a “high level overview” from Jersey Central Power & Light’s Hunterdon representative, the first since a pair of storms knocked power out to thousands here at the end of February and early March.

Stan Prater told the Freeholders that the storms, “hit Hunterdon County pretty hard,”

The first storm struck Sunday evening on Feb. 24 and included wind gusts of 60 to 65 mph, Prater said. The outages peaked the next day and, “We basically had everybody restored by 6 p.m. on the 26th,” Prater said. That was the more severe of the two storms, with about 13,000 of JCP&L’s customers losing power customer, he said.

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A week later – on Sunday night March 3 – Mother Nature delivered “heavy wet snow.”

“We had a lot of poles and wires down,” Prater said. “We had transformers down, and road closures.”

Prater said the company also suffered from “embedded outages.” Those were outages the company couldn’t detect when it did its first assessment of the storm damage. In response to Freeholder Director Suzanne Lagay, Prater explained that those outages included ones where snow was covering JCP&L wires, or where poles had fallen in the woods and weren’t accessible by the company’s bucket trucks.

Prater said about 2,400 of its Hunterdon customers were affected by that storm and that all of those customers had power restored by Tuesday, March 5.

Prater acknowledged that at the previous Freeholder meeting, “I know there were comments about antiquated equipment” being part of JCP&L’s Hunterdon system. But Prater said that when a 30-foot tree falls because of weather conditions, it’s “going to cause damage whether the equipment is old or new.”

Prater said JCP&L has proposed improvements and that it has submitted a “reliability plan” that is pending approval by the state Board of Public utilities. It  includes “enhanced tree trimming” to allow trimming further down “circuit corridors” and that the company wants to add “smart fusing.”

That plan involves a rate increase, he said, and the approved plan might look different than the initial proposal.

After it’s approved by regulators, Prater promised he’ll update the Freeholder board with “what we plan to do,” and that he’ll update each municipality with specifics of what work will be done in each town.

Prater also noted that JCP&L has built two new substations in Hunterdon over the last eight years, in Tewksbury and West Amwell, and that such work “does help reliability.”