For months, Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari criticized officials of Jersey Central Power & Light over a lack of communication and a lack of responsiveness in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
On Wednesday, Vicari said the company's response after a powerful thunderstorm rolled through the Shore area was much better.
"We got a personal commitment from their president for extra crews and extra manpower," Vicari said, citing a meeting he had with JCP&L president Don Lynch that occurred July 3.
"JCP&L did keep their word," he said. "Under the conditions they did a good job."
The fast-moving thunderstorm, which packed wind gusts up to 78 mph and lightning that killed a woman in Monmouth Beach and struck numerous trees and buildings throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties, left behind significant damage in its wake. In some areas, hundred-year-old trees were uprooted, completely blocking some streets or damaging homes and vehicles. Hundreds of live power lines were brought down. Other areas remained untouched, as though the storm had never happened.
Vicari said he received hourly updates from JCP&L officials, initiated by the company, about the status of electric service throughout JCP&L's territory in the county. Ocean County also is served by Atlantic City Electric, from Barnegat to Little Egg Harbor and including Long Beach Island.
At the height of the outages, nearly 40,000 homes and businesses in Ocean County were without power, more than 12,000 in Toms River.
"What was very unusual is it was spotty," Freeholder John P. Kelly said of the way the storm struck. And it compounded issues for Atlantic City Electric, which was still trying to recover from severe storms from a previous weekend.
"Atlantic City Electric was facing much bigger problems," Kelly said, noting it took 10 days for everyone who lost power in the previous storm to regain it.
Most Ocean County residents had their power restored by late Sunday, officials said.
"The power didn't come back on as quickly as any of us would have liked, including the power companies," Kelly said. "The utility companies did everything they could and worked hard to restore power under very difficult circumstances" including Sunday's high temperatures.
"There were things beyond their control," Kelly said.
The freeholders also praised first responders -- EMTs, police and firefighters -- who assisted residents and directed traffic and dealt with emergencies created by the power loss Saturday night into Sunday, as well as the county's roads department for clearing trees as quickly as they were able to access them after the utility companies removed and repaired downed wires.
"This was an extraordinary storm," Kelly said. "Everyone did a good job under difficult circumstances."