Asking residents to “hang tough,” Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty on Tuesday urged everyone to prepare immediately for Wednesday’s nor’easter, which could bring rain, snow, 50 mph gusts and more power outages to a state still reeling from Hurricane Sandy.
“Stock up with what you need. Do it now. Don’t wait till tomorrow night,” said the Mayor, emphasizing that people should stay indoors to avoid falling branches and power lines during this next storm, which is expected to pick up steam around lunchtime Wednesday and continue into Thursday morning.
“There’s still stuff hanging overhead,” the Mayor cautioned. With more cold temperatures forecasted for the next few nights, he also strongly advised anyone without heat to use the Red Cross shelter at Mennen Arena in Morris Township, or the warming station in the seniors center at Morristown town hall, which is open 24-7.
The latest warnings came on a day when two morning accidents took down power lines near the Morris County Courthouse and Morristown High School, knocking out electricity for some Morristown residents who had just gotten it back after the Oct. 29 hurricane.
A crane struck low-hanging wires at Western Avenue and Ann Street, bringing down two utility poles, the Mayor said. And an independently owned garbage truck hit three utility poles near the intersection of Washington and Mills streets, he said.
Jersey Central Power & Light sent assessment teams to those sites, but they could not give the town an estimate of when repair crews will be available, said the Mayor. He called it “another bump” on the road to recovery from Sandy.
SCHOOLS RE-SHUFFLE; CHURCHES NEED FOOD, COATS
The Morris School District, meanwhile, is planning to reopen Wednesday for the first time since the hurricane, which will require some logistical reshuffling: Frelinghuysen Middle School students temporarily will go to Morristown High School, Alexander Hamilton students will attend the the Sussex Avenue School, and Hillcrest students are going to the Alfred Vail School.
School board President Nancy Bangiola said the district now has used up its six snow days (Tuesday was scheduled as a day off because of the general election). Any additional emergency days may be made up during the spring break, or from scheduled three-day weekends, she said.
The Mayor also asked the public to donate food to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which plans to continue serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for area residents still without heat or electricity. Rector Janet Broderick told MorristownGreen.com on Monday that the church was running low on volunteers and essential foods.
Calvary Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Avenue also is collecting winter coats to distribute to residents in need, the Mayor said.
As of Tuesday morning, JCP&L reported that power had not yet been restored to 13 percent of its Morristown customers, 33 percent of Morris Township customers and 10 percent of Morris Plains customers.
The Mayor said he understands residents’ frustrations–and does not understand the utility’s operations.
“I don’t control their work orders. We’re doing everything humanly possible to get powered up,” he said. That includes his frequent calls to JCP&L, and calls on Morristown’s behalf by state legislators, he said.
Town officials are closely watching weather forecasts, hoping the nor’easter will track farther off the Jersey coast. Barry Howard of the town’s Office of Emergency Management said the storm could bring up to 2 inches of rain, a few inches of wet snow, and winds gusting to 5o mph. Trees weakened by Sandy could come down, he said.
On the bright side:
“It’s supposed to be in the 60s this weekend,” Barry said.
Gasoline lines also appear to be easing up, said Police Capt. Steve Sarinelli. Although town employees are weary from Sandy, “we’ll rise to the occasion” to deal with the nor’easter, said the captain, whose home remains without power.
Mayor Dougherty echoed the officer’s sentiments.
“We’ve got to hang tough and we’ll get through it,” he said.
LATEST ROAD CLOSURES / DETOURS:
Washington Street (Route 24- Westbound) closed between Atno Ave. and Colonial Road.
Mendham Avenue and Washington Street (Route 24 – Eastbound) closed between Kahdena Road and Atno Avenue.
WESTBOUND DETOUR – Washington Street to Atno Avenue. Atno to Early Street. Early to Colonial Road. Colonial to Washington.
EASTBOUND DETOUR – Mendham Avenue to Kahdena Road. Kahdena to Sussex Avenue. Sussex to Speedwell Avenue.
IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS
Police non-emergency: 973-989-2793
Public shelter: 973-292-4884
Report downed wires: 973-538-2800
Report power outages: 1-888-544-4877.