Twenty-four hours after a powerful storm ripped through downtown Morristown, power was mostly restored on Saturday, according to Jersey Central Power & Light. About one-third of the town lost electricity after the brief, violent event.
“Thank God there were no injuries,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty.
Kyle Gehsmann, 17, of Morristown, crawled out of his crumpled SUV “rattled, shocked” but otherwise unscathed, after a massive tree toppled onto the vehicle from the lawn of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Friday.
“I was driving through traffic on South Street when all of a sudden I feel and hear something like an earthquake…it all happened like that,” Gehsmann told The Daily Record.
Dougherty said the frequency and intensity of storms hitting Morristown in recent years have convinced him climate change is real.
“The stories I’m hearing, about what people saw, it was close to, if not, a tornado that hit Morristown” on Friday he said.
Shortly before 3 pm, thunder crashed, blinding rain whipped sideways and ferocious winds roared through a central swath of town. The Historic District was hit hard: Huge, seemingly healthy trees pitched across yards and lawns, and onto Macculloch Avenue and Miller Road.
When the soil gets saturated within minutes, the roots lose their grip, Dougherty said.
Vanderpool Drive and James Street also sustained significant damage, and a tree landed atop a house on Jardine Road.
The Mayor was critical of the state Department of Transportation– he said it did not respond to help clear debris from South Street, a state road–but he lauded town firefighters, police, and especially, the public works department.
Public works crews were “exemplary,” working in the rain overnight into Saturday morning clearing streets, with help from outside crews, Dougherty said.
“Stop and thank the DPW if you see them,” he said.