TRENTON, NJ – State officials say some New Jersey residents might not get their power restored until the end of the weekend as utility companies scrambled to restore outages on a scale not seen since Superstorm Sandy.
Tropical Storm Isaias careened across the state Tuesday with soaking rains and wind gusts nearing 75 mph. It toppled trees, knocked down poles, snapped lines and affected about 1.4 million residents – just a shade below the 1.7 million that were left without power when Sandy hit the Garden State in 2012.
By midday Wednesday, some 977,000 New Jersey residents were without power.
“New Jersey got literally whacked and it really left its mark throughout the entire state,” Joe Fiordaliso, president of the Board of Public Utilities, said during Gov. Phil Murphy’s COVID-19 update. “If you were to ask me what region of New Jersey was hit the hardest, I would have difficulty explaining or recognizing any particular area. The entire state was ravaged by this quick-moving storm.”
It’s also difficult to guess when power will be restored through the state.
Fiordaliso said that the goal is to get 80% of the homes back online by Friday night.
“Once you get beyond that 80% threshold, we now get into more difficult situations where there are isolated cases which obviously take a lot more time to take care of,” he said. “But there’s considerable tree damage throughout the state of New Jersey, a considerable number of poles down.”
Fiordaliso said he’s optimistic that residents will have their power restored by the end of the weekend, but the issue isn’t merely cutting away branches and restoring lines.
He said the transmission system has been damaged and fixing it will take priority.
Help is on the way, as about 2,000 out-of-state crews from Canada, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Washington, DC and some midwestern states were converging on New Jersey to help with the restoration process.
In all, Isaias left 3.5 million people in 14 states without power. It also touched off two confirmed tornados in Cape May County, said State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan.
Murphy and Fiordaliso also warned residents to stay away from downed wires.
“Always assume it’s a live wire,” Fiordaliso said. “I got a report this morning that a wire fell on a car on the windshield and literally melted the windshield. So, imagine what it can do to you. That’s something you don’t want to fool around with.”