For many people around Greater Morristown on Thursday, the only thing sweeter than the rumble of an emergency generator was the sight of a JCP&L truck.
The utility said it anticipated restoring power to 85 percent of its affected customers by the end of Friday.
But for parts of Morristown, Morris Township and Morris Plains, the Jersey Central Power & Light website said power could be out through late Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020– a week after Tropical Storm Isaias blew through New Jersey.
“For this particular storm wind gusts approached hurricane force… from a damage standpoint, I would say it ranks with some of the larger storms that we’ve had here over the last 10 or 15 years,” said JCP&L spokesman Cliff Cole.
Still, he was cautiously optimistic that many affected customers in Greater Morristown would be among those regaining electricity by the weekend.
During his daily briefing on Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy said 970,000 of the 1.4 million New Jerseyans who lost power in the storm still don’t have it back.
Service also remained suspended on NJ Transit’s Morris & Essex Line and the Gladstone Branch. The Montclair-Boonton Line resumes operation on Friday, on a weekend schedule.
“New Jersey got literally whacked,” Joe Fiordaliso, president of the state Board of Public Utilities, said during the press conference.
“If you were to ask me what region of New Jersey was hit the hardest, I would have difficulty in explaining or recognizing any particular area. The entire state was ravaged by this quick-moving storm.”
Across Morris County, more than 73,000 JCP&L customers– including 3,841 in the Morris Township, 1,904 in Morristown and 910 in Morris Plains– remained without electricity as of 6 pm.
“If anyone has driven through Washington’s Headquarters, you can see that the residents of Rosemilt Place are completely stranded because the street is blocked by a fallen tree and downed wires,” posted Morristown Green reader Lisa Price.
“No electricity is only part of the problem. In case of an emergency, there is no way to get down the street. We have not been given any timeline.”
Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, whose home lost power after the storm, said he was aware of the situation in the Washington’s Headquarters neighborhood.
“I haven’t forgotten Rosemilt,” the mayor said in his daily COVID-19 video briefing, asserting he had “elevated” his requests for JCP&L to clear downed trees from Rosemilt to the governor’s office.
However, Dougherty acknowledged Isaias’ statewide destruction, and said he was assured by the utility that restoration dates of Aug. 11 and beyond were worst-case scenarios.
“I’m not going to point the finger yet. I’m going to try to work with them. There’s major, major damage to their infrastructure. .. We’re going to work with them and try to get through this together,” said the mayor, a vocal critic of JCP&L during prolonged outages after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco and Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (both R-25th Dist.) stopped to speak with Dougherty as they surveyed damage across Morris County on Thursday.
Some 3,300 workers have been called into New Jersey by JCP&L, a subsidiary of Ohio-based First Energy Corp. The utility’s personnel have been augmented by people from other companies through mutual aid arrangements, Cole said.
According to Fiordaliso of the state BPU, some 2000 crew members have come from out of state, from as far as Canada and Louisiana.
Repair crews have been briefed on COVID-19 safety guidelines; the pandemic should not impede their repair efforts, Cole said.
So far, he added, the utility has restored power for 380,000 of 750,000 impacted customers.
“While we still have some work to do, we are making progress,” Cole said.
JCP&L has offered free ice and bottled water to affected customers, at designated supermarkets. Ice supplies ran out Thursday afternoon at the Kings Food Market in Morristown and the ACME in Morris Plains.
Cole said Jersey Central relies on stores to provide the stock.
“We don’t have control over that,” he said.
Correspondent Tyler Barth contributed to this story.