On October 29, an earlier than usual ; millions of people were left without power. In South Orange, thousands of homes were left without power while nearly the entire town was affected by falling trees and debris.
The power outages were caused by the debris. In addition to the outages, other village services were interrupted.
Leaf pickup has been delayed until more branches can be cleaned up. Following the storm, the South Orange Department of Public Works (DPW), Police Department and Fire Department spent days cleaning up.
The damage was deemed much worse than expected, topping the damage caused by Hurricane Irene from a month earlier. Officials state that DPW has already collected almost 50% more debris than Irene, and they aren't done yet. Private contractors had to be hired to help out DPW, already understaffed prior to the storm, with the cleanup.
DPW dedicated ten trucks to hauling brush and waste from the storm, including those operated by private contractors. DPW workers were also put on a 14x7 schedule which required them to work 14 hour days every day.
However, three weeks later, branches are still falling and residents are also asked to do an inspection of their property for branches that are cracked or on the verge of falling.
If a public tree has branches with the potential of falling, residents should call DPW and have them cut them down to minimize damage. DPW can be reached at (973) 378-7741.
Owners of trees on residential property need to call a private landscaper to assist with the branches. However, all debris cut off by the landscaper must be hauled off by the service and not left on the street for DPW.
The falling branches caused some major power outages around town. South Orange suffered less power outages than neighboring towns, such as West Orange and Livingston; however, the number was still significant.
Village officials states that according to PSE&G, on Sunday, October 30, the day after the storm, 6,000 homes were left without power. The number was down to 3,000 by Monday, 1,500 on Tuesday, 1,000 on Wednesday, 850 on Thursday, 350 on Friday and power was fully restored to the town on Saturday, a full week after the storm.
Following the storm, various officials spent the entire day in Village Hall answering resident concerns and were in constant contact with PSE&G. In addition, officials state that Village President Alex Torpey personally sent and received over 1,500 e-mails and phone calls and also responded to other means of comments from residents via various social media site.
There were two PSE&G supervisors on the field receiving every concern communicated to village officials. They were in charge of sending the crews to the locations suffering from blackouts. Also, village officials were in constant contact with PSE&G’s government affairs contacts.
PSE&G is a state-regulated, publicly traded utility company. Despite South Orange’s many concerns and issues, they were left with no actual legal authority over PSE&G’s operations.
The issue of PSE&G and how they responded to the storm will be discussed at the next Board of Trustees meeting on November 14 at Village Hall. The meeting starts at 7:30 and can be streamed live on South Orange’s website.