Watchful and still digging out. That's a judicious assessment of the progress made by emergency responders, utility crews, state transportation workers, and others who've labored for three days to get New Jersey up and running after Hurricane Irene.
As of late last night, there were still 146,000 homes and business without power, mostly located in the northern part of the state. PSEG said they still had 62,000 outages, after restoring more than 600,000 customers. The state's second-largest electric utility, Jersey Central Power and Light, was still dealing with more than 70,000 outages. The two smaller utilities, Rockland Electric Co. and Atlantic City Electric each reported fewer than 10,00 outages as of last night.
Flooding, however, remains a serious problem and may not subside until later today, when some rivers are expected to crest. As of last night, at least three rivers were still experiencing major flooding, with other locations across the northern part of the state near flood stage or facing minor flooding.
Hurricane Irene is likely to make flooding a major subject of debate. Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club, has issued numerous media alerts about toxic waste and sewage leakage caused by flooding. He has called for new discussions about flooding-related issues that affect New Jersey as a result of development. In addition to the environmental impact, there have been hundreds of roads across the state closed due to flooding. Officials, including Gov. Chris Christie, are calling for the federal government to provide disaster relief.