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Hurricane Sandy May Test Utilities' Preparations

JCP&L instituted new communications, repair plans after last year's major storms—will it be enough?

Two months after New Jersey residents recovered from flooding and damage caused by 2011's Hurricane Irene, the area was hit with a severe winter storm.

The storm's snowfall piled more than a foot deep in many areas, and the heavy, wet precipitation snapped tree limbs and utility poles, causing massive power outages that in some cases took a week to repair.

And on the anniversary of that storm, New Jersey is facing a potentially more dangerous storm: Hurricane Sandy, which has already claimed lives in the Carribean and is currently forecast to reach the area Monday morning—just in time to collide with a possible winter storm.

Keeping a close eye on the storms are meteorologists with JCP&L, which says employees have already been put on alert in case the storm should hit New Jersey hard.

"We ... are prepared to mobilize employees and resources where needed if Sandy develops into a threat to the region," JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano said. 

Following last year's storms when JCP&L was widely criticized for its slow response to the storm damage and poor communications with residents and municipal officials, the company initiated a number of programs designed to improve both issues.

Website improvements provide real-time updates on power outages, and JCP&L is recommending customers check its social media sites. Tweets sent by JCP&L (@JCP_L) Thursday included "We're taking proactive steps to get ahead of the storm and address potential damage from Hurricane Sandy" and "Upgrades r designed 2 help reduce the likelihood & duration of outages. We r taking steps 2 prep for poss impact of the storm."

The tweets are expected to get more specific during emergencies or widespread power outages. The company said this would enable residents following the Twitter feed to keep current on company efforts via cell phones or tablet computers.  

The company also vowed to use GPS systems on repair trucks, with crews empowered to work with local officials to more quickly repair outages. Last year, many towns complained the crews sent to help repair lines in New Jersey had no familiarity with local systems, causing delays in repairs.

PSE&G issued a statement Thursday noting the company has also placed crews on stand-by, and arranged for contractors to help with repairs.  

The improvements may be tested Monday, when the storms are expected to reach the area. According to New Jersey State Climatologist David Robinson, the storm could include major flooding along the coast and in some key river basins, as well as wind damage throughout the state.

"The remnants of Hurricane Sandy pose a legitimate threat to New Jersey later this weekend into early next week," he said. "Recent forecast model runs have zeroed in on the New Jersey coast for a landfall of this rouge system come Monday morning.

"Certainly the details will change—I'm speaking of timing, strength and location, but right now there is significant potential for an impactful event."

CSS October 25, 2012 at 09:56 PM
To answer the rhetorical question, "no". The old map was fine, the new one barely loads on mobile devices, especially when the power is out and more people are using their phones for internet access. The old map actually worked much better on a phone/tablet. An old-fashioned system that determined your location by caller ID and then gave you the outage numbers and estimates would be much better as far as usefulness when the power is out and you don't want to drain your phone battery waiting for a non-mobile optimized site to load. Twitter? Meh. What they don't mention is that things they could have done to truly improve the chances of the power not going out have not been done - namely tree trimming and maintenance on their aging infrastructure. High winds + trees sagging over power lines = high probability of an outage.
Tammy October 26, 2012 at 01:30 AM
If there are wide spread outages with this storm I think it would be fair if they worked in backwards order of the last storm. Why should the same people that were out for five days and more the last two storms have to do it all over again?
beckyrunninghorse October 26, 2012 at 03:14 AM
you and i both wish tammy i doubt it will happen that way though.
Jim dary October 26, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Crappy location they wine about doing any work in hopatcong cause of all the trees and powerlines
roger freiday October 26, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Get your JCPL welcome kit, a jug of kerosene, a generator, some water bottles and ice. I live in the ''black hole'' (JCPL self described high outage area). I have been demanding a tie line through to Drakestown road, because the ''dark hole'' is on the END of the line and no ''loop''. The JCPL answer ? ''costs too much'' and ''we put a tie at Gary Court and Drakestown''. THAT will NOT fix ANYTHING ! It is still out side the needed loop. They need to put in a dozen poles on Fairview ave, where the line now ends, to Drakestown rd, but it ''costs too much''. I have e mailed Sen Bucco etc, and BPU, so far , no results. Expect another LENGTHY OUTAGE all you peons in JCPL ''service?'' area ! Oh, and don't forget the flooding we will have due to Wash. Twp's ''planning board's'' propensity to allow unbridled HOME BUILDING on SLOPES and watersheds !
denise October 26, 2012 at 01:11 PM
JCP&L should be out right now trimming tree limbs and assessing high potential areas for power outages in regards to trees and sagging power lines- this would be a preventive measure that could possibly enable thousands of people to keep power during this storm-plus it would be more cost effective in the long run
Liberty October 26, 2012 at 02:22 PM
They have been, and still are, trimming trees over the last few days. They left a notice on my mailbox and are out there working.
Michael Hegedus October 26, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Here we go again. Another opportunity for JCP&L to screw up. JCP&L id a pretty good endorsement for getting back-up generators.
gina s. October 26, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I am sure JCP&L crews are still in Ohio....would be too smart to have them on their way to NJ now.
Melissa October 26, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Wonder if JCPL is getting a cut of all generators sold in our service area.
Jon T October 26, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I'm calling JCP&L now to report my outage...by the time they get around to me it will be wed/thurs next week anyway.
CSS November 03, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Does anyone moderate these comment threads? These Coach spammers are especially annoying when you're subscribed to email updates on a thread...

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