Amid storm, power outages persist from previous nor’easter

It’s going to be another long night for Ron and Sue Mattia. The Byram Township couple slept fitfully on the sofa, tended the fire in their hearth and fed the generator gasoline to keep their sump pump going and the basement dry.

“We have to stay because we have to keep water from not flooding our basement,” said Ron.

“We could be much worse off. We’re fortunate to be staying dry,” said Sue.

Down the street, another family’s A-frame stands dark and empty, except for the cats. Rich Ecke and his family lost power six days ago, so they’re staying at a nearby hotel.

“We toughed it out as long as we could, but it was getting too bad,” he said. “There was just no power, no hot water.”

Ecke says they did get power back for about 20 minutes Tuesday before it went out again. He’s frustrated with JCP&L, which still has 400 to 500 customers in Byram without power since last Friday’s nor’easter.

“After Sandy and the Halloween storm, you would hope they would have a better plan to deal with this kind of stuff? The communication has not been great. Obviously, infrastructure has not been great,” he said.

A line crew from Michigan was parked alongside the road in Byram’s Forest Lake section, a scene Byram officials called exasperating.

“We saw too much idle time in this event. Me, personally, I’ve been out on the street, the police chief’s been out on the street, following crews around, working with them, and they’ve sat there idle for hours without doing anything until they got work orders from JCP&L,” said Byram Township Administrator Joseph Sabatini.

“You walk up to them, and query what they’re up to, and they’re like, ‘we’re waiting for orders, we’re waiting for this, we’re waiting for that,’ and they’ve been sitting there for hours. The centralized management of JCP&L is not necessarily aware of what’s going on at the local levels,” said Mayor Alex Rubenstein.

JCP&L has about 3,000 people working on restoring power, including 300 from PSE&G. As of Wednesday morning, it showed 24,500 outages remain, mostly in rural Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon and Morris Counties. Crews from Ohio Edison kept working despite the snowfall at midday.

Ryan Casteel, a lineman with Ohio Edison, says he has been out working for four days in 16-hour shifts. He says he will work “until we’re done, as long as they need us.”

“We have a lot of people running crews from Missouri and everyplace else out here trying to get your lights back on. But your trees aren’t very helpful to us,” said Ohio Edison relay tester Bob Hendrick. “Winds pick up, with the heavy snow on top, the weaker trees that didn’t fall before will probably fall this time.”

Folks without power can warm and power up at the municipal building’s meeting room. Meanwhile, the Ecke family is staying in a hotel for the long haul.

“I’ve actually planned on being there through Thursday, and then extended the reservation through Sunday, because whatever date we’re being told, I’m pretty much adding two or three days to that,” said Rich.

So for the Ecke family, home will be a hotel until power’s finally restored, whenever that is.