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Hurricane Sandy Has Bridgewater Bracing

Officials expect flooding and power outages to last for days

Bridgewater Township Administrator James Naples expects Hurricane Sandy will bring extensive flooding when it arrives in a few days, possibility early Monday.

So public works crews have been clearing storm drains and streets of debris to better allow water to get underground.

That effort is one way the township is preparing for Sandy, Naples said. 

There have been discussion with county officials and local meetings to set reaction plans in place, he said.

But mostly, he said, “it’s just waiting.”

Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy is expected to make landfall late Monday and affect the region for several days with high winds and heavy rain. The storm could be 800 miles wide when the center strikes New Jersey before driving in to central Pennsylvania possibly two days later. In that scenario, New Jersey would be on the leading edge of the storm, with the strongest waves of heavy rain flowing in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Last Halloween, Bridgewater got whacked by more than eight inches of snow and, like many New Jersey communities, saw widespread power losses as the heavy snow took town trees and limbs that had not yet dropped with leaves. That is the condition now, Naples said, but the concern with Sandy is high wind.

Utilities and local crews have been trimming trees in response, he said.

The township has set up an extensive communications network for residents to contact township officials and police, and township emergency management officials work closely with their counterparts from Somerset County, he said.

The Halloween snow storm left about a third of the township without power and downed wires and trees had closed parts of Route 28, Foothill, Mount Horeb, Washington Valley, Chimney Rock roads and Vosseller Avenue, Bridgewater police said at the time.

In response to the criticism they received last year, both JCP&L and PSE&G made service improvements and opened up improved communications systems for customers to record and track power outages.

The power companies added features to their Facebook pages, added Twitter accounts, and added links for reporting outages their websites.

The companies also began extensive tree-trimming operations aimed at reducing the impact of falling limbs–a major contributor to last year’s power outages–and  began repairs to the damaged electric systems.

On Friday, JCP&L in a press release from First Energy Corp., its parent company, said there is the chance power outages could last seven to 10 days.

"While it appears that New Jersey has the potential to be the hardest-hit area, this massive weather event has the potential to cause damage across a large portion of First Energy's service territory," said Brian Kolts, a First Energy meteorologist, in the press release.

JCP&L said it has 700 First Energy personnel secured for storm recovery work, as well as 500 to 600 electrical contractors and 1,000 tree contractors.

Public Service Electric & Gas Co., the state's largest utility, said it has requested 1,300 linemen and 600 tree contractors from utilities in other states to help out if the storm hits.

PSE&G said is taking the following steps:

  • Ensuring that all available personnel are ready to respond beginning this weekend.
  • Arranging for contractors, including tree crews, to assist the utility’s own skilled workforce.
  • Ensuring that additional supplies, such as poles, transformers and other pole-top equipment, are on hand.
  • Ensuring that all vehicles are fueled and ready to go.
  • Testing generators at utility locations.
  • Checking locations for potential flooding and taking precautions, such as using sandbags to help divert water from substation equipment
  • Coordinating with county OEMs to keep them updated on outages and restoration efforts.

PSE&G contact information:

To report downed wires or power outages, customers should call PSE&G’s Customer Service line at 1-800-436-PSEG. PSE&G uses an automated system to handle customer calls as efficiently as possible. Customers who get an automated response when calling PSE&G are encouraged to use it, as it is designed to route their calls to the right destination quickly. The system also provides the option to speak directly to a customer service representative. If you have specific information regarding damage to wires, transformers or poles, we ask that you speak with a representative to provide that information.

Customers with a handheld device, or who are at an alternate location with power, can also report power outages and view the status of their outage by logging in to My Account at pseg.com. General outage activity throughout our service territory is available online at www.pseg.com/outagecenter and updates are posted on pseg.com during severe weather.

In addition, if outages are widespread, the utility will activate its Twitter page to keep the public informed about our restoration progress. Sign up as a follower at http://twitter.com/psegdelivers to monitor restoration progress.

JCP&L contact information:

Customers who are without power should call 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877) to report their outage or click the "Report Outage" link on www.firstenergycorp.com via smartphone.

For updated information on the company's storm preparation efforts, current outages, FirstEnergy's storm restoration process and tips for staying safe, customers are urged to visit the 24/7 Power Center at www.firstenergycorp.com/outages. The operating companies will also provide updates via Twitter at JCP&L: @JCP_L

Experts recommend homeowners secure the following emergency supplies:

  • Keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy. Use care when burning candles; open flames are a fire hazard.
  • Gather extra blankets or a sleeping bag for each person. Do not use gas stoves, kerosene heaters or other open-flame heat sources to prevent deadly carbon monoxide gas from building up in your home.
  • If you have a water well and pump, keep an emergency supply of bottled water and/or fill your bathtub with fresh water.
  • Stock an emergency supply of convenience foods that do not require cooking.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio with extra batteries on hand. Tune in to a local radio station for current storm information.
  • Have a hard-wired telephone or a charged cell phone handy in the event you need to report your electricity is out.
  • Mobile phones can be charged in your vehicle using a car charger when power is out.
  • If you have a smart phone, this will ensure you have access to online information sources.

Bridgewater information:

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