15 Sep 2014
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PSE&G Explains What Went Wrong

Representative of the utility company said main lines were badly damaged which slowed its ability to hit the local neighborhoods

PSE&G Explains What Went Wrong

A representative from PSE&G appeared at Wednesday night's council meeting to explain what went wrong and why after snowfall and wind Halloween weekend.

According to Dave Hollenbeck, PSE&G's Regional Public Affairs Manager for Bergen and Hudson counties, the utility was not expecting the storm to be so destructive. It's the worst storm he'd seen in nearly 30 years at PSE&G, he said.

Hollenbeck, by way of analogy, said Public Service had to fix its major line problems before it could reach the local pockets without service. According to the rep, the main lines coming from the substations are like "arteries" while "branch circuits" going into communities are like veins.

"You need to take care of the arteries first before you get the blood flow to those veins," he said.

Once the main lines are restored, PSE&G works on the "branch circuits" going to residential homes. "It's the same process," he said. "We have to go in there with tree crews and try to find out where there's trees, clear those trees, then your DPW would usually come in while our crew goes to another job, clean up that so we can get our equipment in and our trucks in, then we get our trucks in and restore it."

PSE&G, which first reported 6,400 outages have been dropped to around 860 by late Wednesday night, said it's currently at that community stage. There are eleven service crews and ten tree crews solely dedicated to Ridgewood, and they're not leaving until the job is done, he said.

Although residents complained they hadn't seen trucks around, Hollenbeck said that wasn't true.

"I think you were one of the first communities that we came to," Hollenbeck said. Because of Valley Hospital, Ridgewood is considered a top initial priority. Crews floated in and out of the village during the storm, but manpower dedicated to Ridgewood didn't come until day five.

Still with many in the Willard area still out of power, Mayor Keith Killion said much of what's been explained is of little solace to residents.

"Our residents are patient but they've run out of patience," Killion exclaimed. "They've run out of patience with us, they've run out of patience with Public Service."

Hollenbeck offered no specific projection as to when full power would be restored. "If you're one customer and you have a service drop and you're the only customer on the block, I don't know how quickly you're going to get restored," he said.

Because of the tremendous amount of trees that went down around Willard, work has been slow. Hollenbeck said large trees took out the top main circuits, which is unusual but the utility is "dedicated" to clearing it as soon as possible.

Compounding the problem is the fact that circuit boxes were destroyed and downed branches delay fixes on the neighborhood level, Hollenbeck said.

Forty men in the village's workforce are out as well, Director of Operations Frank Moritz said.

Several council members asked that PSE&G consult with Ridgewood if it makes an assessment study as to how it did on the storm. Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh asked that PSE&G be made available to provide consultation should the council revise its shade tree policy.

As of early Thursday, between 1 and 500 households are still without power, according to PSE&G's outage map

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