Mayor Pressing Utilities as Wyckoff Goes into Another Night Without Power

More than 90 percent of township homes still have no power resources are scarce as many stranded residents await the arrival of utility crews

More than 90 percent of Wyckoff is still without power — including critical assets such as gas stations and restaurants — as township officials and residents dig in for the long haul in the road to recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

Crews from the Department of Public Works have been working around the clock to clear debris that has forced many residents to stay indoors because of hazardous conditions on the roads around town. 

"Scott Fisher and his crew have been out there all day clearing debris," Wyckoff Mayor Chris DePhillips said. 

At the height of road closures, more than 60 roads were blocked across Wyckoff — now, there are only about 20-25 inaccessible streets in the township, according to township officials.

Many of the obstructed roads haven't been cleared because downed electrical wires pose a significant threat, not only to DPW crews, but passersby. Because of the hazards still present on many township streets, school was canceled for the rest of the week.

The mayor spoke with Wyckoff Public Schools Superintendent Rich Kuder who confirmed that all township public schools, as well as both Ramapo and Indian Hills high schools would be closed on Thursday and Friday as municipalities clear the damage left by Sandy.

The township has been in maintenance mode for all of Wednesday, working with residents in need who have stopped into town hall or called the police dispatch line. 

"There are a lot of residents who continue to come here," DePhillips said. "It's only one of two places residents can go [in Wyckoff.]" 

Powerhouse Church on West Main Street began offering up their facilities Wednesday to residents in need.

Pastor Jeff Boucher's church is "the only institution in Wyckoff that has main power," DePhillips said, and they're equipped to handle day-time needs for residents. 

The space is a "pretty comfortable facility" that's kept around 62 degrees with plenty of room, including kids spaces and a big auditiorium.

DePhillips said Boucher offered to make the church available "as long as we need it."

Hopes in town hall were high as the mayor applied continued pressure on both PSE&G and Orange and Rockland electrical companies.

"I've been in constant contact with the utilites," DePhillips said. 

He's been pushing aggressively to get crews into Wyckoff, but utilities told the mayor that they're first working on the substations. 

"Once they're up, the crews could go neighborhood-by-neighborhood to restore power."

DePhillips also said he spoke to State Senator Kevin O'Toole, "who's going to intervene on our behalf to get a better response from Orange & Rockland." The utility, which services a smaller area in the township than PSE&G, has been less responsive to the mayor's calls, he said.

"You have to put your community on the map and press the utilities and remind them what your communities are going through," DePhillips said.

Some PSE&G crews have been in the township working on blocked roads and other "serious situations" where wires were involved. 

"They removed wires and cut up trees or just removed the wires and turned [the tree removal] over to the DPW. 

"We'll do whatever we need to do," DePhillips said. "Once they come into town we don't like to see them leave."

According to DePhillips, on a call Tuesday night with Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, the county chief said that a shelter established at Bergen County Community College was full.

"But, things open up... [and] there's another facility in Lyndhurst, and another in Demarest," DePhillips said. And [Donovan] is looking at other sites in Bergen County. 

Ridgewood Water

DePhillips spoke to Ridgewood Water chief Frank Moritz, who assured the mayor that widespread rumors about trouble at the water company were untrue.

"He assured me that there were no plans to shut water off," DePhillips said. "They're not in any way, shape, or form at any crisis level." 

The mayor is confident that Wyckoff is in a good position when it comes to water levels.

Dwindling Resources 

DePhillips said only a few homes may have come back online on Wednesday, but that the number of neighborhoods still without power hadn't changed. 

But as residents begin to burn through fuel in their cars and generators, as well as food to feed their families, DePhillips reiterated how urgent it was that PSE&G and O&R work to restore power to Wyckoff's business district

Until then the township is being forced to direct residents to neighboring towns that have power, and most importantly, food and fuel. 

Township officials are maintaining a list of places where gas is available, but that list is malleable as residents from around Begen County scramble to fill up cars and gas cans.

Those in need should contact dispatchers at 201-891-2121.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Residents are coming together in the face of adversity and lending a helping hand to those in need.

"I have such loving neighbors," said one Wyckoff-Franklin Lakes Patch Facebook reader Janet Bob Hoogerheyde. "Even without seeing each other for years, I was blown away with the kindness shown by two of my backyard neighbors. They allowed us to hook into their generator and another hooked up heat."

People are speaking up on Facebook, Hoogerheyde added, writing words of encouragement and sending prayers to those who are afraid.

"God will provide if we seek Him," she said. "Let us help one another. God bless you all."

Another reader, Bill Wulff said that he was sharing his generator with a neighbor.

"[A] tree fell on my house and lots of neighbors came over to help," Wulff said. 

Wyckoff Committeeman Briand Scanlan said the township was making slow but steady progress, noting that those scheduled to receive Wednesday trash pick up had in fact received it.

Throughout the storm and Wyckoff's recovery, people in need have been in contact with the township's board of health.

"One of the lesser known issues is that many people on oxygen... need power to operate their equipment," Scanlan said, so the BOH was making efforts to "try to get them to a place where there's consistent power, [such as] the Christian Health Care Center."  

Some still had to be transported to the hospital, he said.

The Community Emergency Response Team had also been working with the BOH to check up on the elderly and others with extraordinary needs. 

"I would really encourage neighbors to knock on other neighbors' doors and see they're that they're OK," Scanlan said. "People are really helping each other out."

Anybody with a medical concern should first contact police dispatchers at 201-891-2121 where they will be directed to the appropriate party, Scanlan said.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Chris Byers November 02, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Unfortunately, that won't hurt them. PSE&G makes virtually no profit off of gas/electric supply. They are required to supply it as a condition of getting paid for servicing of accounts and those ridiculous overpriced service guarantee plans.
Richard D. Cameron November 03, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Mr. Mayor. How about using the power of your office to get PSEG to begin power restoration. Your inability to be our advocate will long resonate with voters!
nina November 04, 2012 at 12:45 PM
mayor is not running for the second term so wont make a difference! perhaps the reason why this is...
PO'd November 08, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Thursday Nov 8 11:30 AM: STILL NO POWER


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