The president of Jersey Central Power & Light said Wednesday “we’re doing a great job” restoring power in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, and added he hoped that most customers in Greater Morristown would be back online by today.
“A hurricane of this magnitude challenges all utilities. And I believe we’re doing a great job,” Don Lynch said at a press conference at JCP&L’s Morris Township headquarters.
The executive said he understood the frustrations of those who remain without electricity, but said 1,700 people were working round the clock to restore service.
“With two-thirds of our customers affected, we have 550,000 restored (in New Jersey) in two days, really, when you think about it, Monday-Tuesday. That’s a pretty darned good restoration pace, and so I’m pretty proud of what our employees are doing.”
Some residents without power in Morristown and Morris Township have been critical of the utility, and of municipal officials, for leaving them in the dark or for announcing restorations that have not panned out.
But the mayors of Morristown and Morris Township both praised efforts by JCP&L to deal with the loss of its Ridgedale Avenue substation, knocked out on Sunday when debris dammed a bridge on the Whippany River and caused the river to breach flood walls designed to stop the type of flood that only occurs every 100 years.
“It’s a very unique situation to lose a complete substation,” said Mayor Dougherty.
Whether JCP&L should erect an even higher wall is something that will be studied, according to Don Lynch.
The other major issue is downed trees and potentially live wires. Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty said the town discovered another situation like that on Hill Street on Tuesday.
Morris Township Mayor H. Scott Rosenbush said the storm toppled at least 50 trees in his township, and about half of those brought down wires.
Shortly after the 2 pm press conference, power came back for Morristown’s Century 21 department store, the town seniors center on Early Street, and also on Budd Street and portions of Washington Street, according to the Morristown Partnership and Mayor Dougherty.
Don Lynch said he was unaware of discrepancies between outage reports on JCP&L’s website and lower figures released by company spokespersons. He said the web numbers are based on calls the company receives from the public.
Earlier this week Mayor Rosenbush said the utility needed to inform local officials about what neighborhoods were out and when they would be restored.
The JCP&L president said that’s difficult to do during a huge, unfolding event such as Irene–”the worst storm we’ve seen in recent memory at Jersey Central and throughout our FirstEnergy territory.”
Restoring power is tricky for Greater Morristown because most the flooded substation is out of service, possibly for months, explained JCP&L’s John Anderson.
Connections are being made to other substations, and they must be done with care.
Morristown Medical Center and the surrounding neighborhood was purposely knocked offline for about 90 minutes Wednesday morning to avoid overloading a temporary circuit connected to a Convent Station substation, John said.
“It started to overload,” he said, and there was no time to warn anyone before shutting down the circuit.
Morristown Police Capt. Steve Sarinelli said he was not aware of any looting or opportunistic crimes that might be associated with the outages. And he thanked motorists for showing courtesy as they navigated intersections without non-working traffic signals.
STAY TUNED FOR VIDEO OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE.