NJ residents blast JCP&L response to Irene outages

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:29

    Homeowners left in the dark for nearly a week after Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey told state regulators Monday how powerless they still feel in dealing with the electric company. At a hearing of the state Board of Public Utilities, residents accused Jersey Central Power and Light of not letting them know what was going on or when they could expect to have power flowing again. The board called the meeting to hear from electricity customers, and plans a second hearing Tuesday in Morris County. Even Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno weighed in on the utility's storm response. During a bill signing in Trenton, she faulted JCP&L's performance. “Our power companies need to do better,'' she said. “How hard is it to tell people what you know when you knew it? They didn't tell us what they knew when they knew it.'' JCP&L officials have acknowledged they could have done a better job keeping their customers informed. But company spokesman Ron Morano also noted in a telephone interview with The Associated Press before the hearing that the company was under extremely difficult conditions. “We understand their frustration. We've heard it loud and clear,'' Morano said. “We know how important electricity is to their daily lives.'' Morano said that in recovery, the company first deals with “life-and-limb, 911 situations," then institutions such as hospitals are given priority, followed by larger customers. “More than two-thirds of our customers were impacted by Hurricane Irene," Morano said. “We saw flooded roads and bridges, and getting equipment into hard-hit areas was difficult. There were a lot of challenges caused by downed or uprooted trees. We had two substations, one in Morristown and one in Windsor, under six feet of water, and we had rivers throughout our service area with record flood levels." Morano said JCP&L had power restored to 70 percent of its customers within 48 hours, and 83 percent had electricity within 72 hours. The company had 21,000 downed wires and more than 1,000 of its 1,200 electrical circuits were affected by the storm. The company replaced 47 miles of wire, 300 utility poles, 400 cross-arms atop poles and 300 transformers. Crews from New Jersey and out of state worked 18 hour shifts restoring power.