Isaias roared across New Jersey producing winds that topped 100 miles an hour and spawned two tornadoes — one in Cape May County, one in Ocean — sending trees crashing onto cars and homes.
Isaias left many homes with extensive damage although no serious injuries were reported. But trees and branches also took down power lines, sparking dangerous fires with live wires in places like Allendale.
At its height, Isaias knocked out power to 1.4 million businesses and residents in New Jersey. The storm left so much wreckage in its wake that it will take days for crews to pick up the mess and restore power.
Gov. Phil Murphy toured a JCP&L staging area in Jackson Wednesday morning. Utilities called in more than 2,000 out-of-state reinforcement to help restore power. Murphy called for patience.
“This storm came through hard and fast. That had some benefits, in the sense of personal damages and flooding, which we had less of. The big legacy from this storm, however, is going to be power outages,” Murphy said.
New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso said 500,000 customers have already had power restored as of midday Wednesday, but the rest will take time.
“The entire state was ravaged by this quick-moving storm. Crews are coming in and are here from Canada, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi,” Fiordaliso said. “Our hope is by late Friday night that 80% of customers will have been restored.”
“I think it’s a very slow response. In this day and age people have to wait all this time, you know what I mean” said George, a Mount Arlington resident.
Before power crews can fix the lines, tree crews need to clear away fallen branches and, in some cases, replace broken poles. That could take days.
Robert Sumter, a line locator for Utiliquest, marks around broken utility poles to make sure gas lines don’t get damaged during digging and repairs.
“Big trees is all over the ground, everything is knocked down and it’s really bad,” he said.
Drivers found many roads closed or blocked off due to repair work and live wires. In Lake Hopatcong, Jefferson Market did a brisk business as locals looked for for places to find their morning coffee.
But Isaias dealt some other businesses that were already struggling during the pandemic another body blow. Many restaurants that set up outside dining areas got slammed.
Mellisa Novak, a Lake Hopatcong beauty salon owner who reopened in June, is now ready to tear out her hair over Isaias.
“We’re cancelling all our appointments and then we’ll just have to see tomorrow. I don’t know how long. It’s been devastating, just everything going on. We’re all suffering,” she said.
After a tropical storm on top of a pandemic, people are just weary.