Hurricane Sandy May Test Utilities' Preparations
JCP&L instituted new communications, repair plans after last year's major storms—will it be enough?
Two months after New Jersey residents recovered from flooding and damage caused by 2011's Hurricane Irene, the area was hit with a severe winter storm.
The storm's snowfall piled more than a foot deep in many areas, and the heavy, wet precipitation snapped tree limbs and utility poles, causing massive power outages that in some cases took a week to repair.
And on the anniversary of that storm, New Jersey is facing a potentially more dangerous storm: Hurricane Sandy, which has already claimed lives in the Carribean and is currently forecast to reach the area Monday morning—just in time to collide with a possible winter storm.
Keeping a close eye on the storms are meteorologists with JCP&L, which says employees have already been put on alert in case the storm should hit New Jersey hard.
"We ... are prepared to mobilize employees and resources where needed if Sandy develops into a threat to the region," JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano said.
Following last year's storms when JCP&L was widely criticized for its slow response to the storm damage and poor communications with residents and municipal officials, the company initiated a number of programs designed to improve both issues.
Website improvements provide real-time updates on power outages, and JCP&L is recommending customers check its social media sites. Tweets sent by JCP&L (@JCP_L) Thursday included "We're taking proactive steps to get ahead of the storm and address potential damage from Hurricane Sandy" and "Upgrades r designed 2 help reduce the likelihood & duration of outages. We r taking steps 2 prep for poss impact of the storm."
The tweets are expected to get more specific during emergencies or widespread power outages. The company said this would enable residents following the Twitter feed to keep current on company efforts via cell phones or tablet computers.
The company also vowed to use GPS systems on repair trucks, with crews empowered to work with local officials to more quickly repair outages. Last year, many towns complained the crews sent to help repair lines in New Jersey had no familiarity with local systems, causing delays in repairs.
PSE&G issued a statement Thursday noting the company has also placed crews on stand-by, and arranged for contractors to help with repairs.
The improvements may be tested Monday, when the storms are expected to reach the area. According to New Jersey State Climatologist David Robinson, the storm could include major flooding along the coast and in some key river basins, as well as wind damage throughout the state.
"The remnants of Hurricane Sandy pose a legitimate threat to New Jersey later this weekend into early next week," he said. "Recent forecast model runs have zeroed in on the New Jersey coast for a landfall of this rouge system come Monday morning.
"Certainly the details will change—I'm speaking of timing, strength and location, but right now there is significant potential for an impactful event."