Locals compare Tropical Storm Isaias to Sandy

Vernon. Many local residents were left without power for days in the storm’s aftermath. Robert Haffner, director of Emergency Preparedness with the County Office of Emergency Management, said the strength of the winds was unexpected.

11 Aug 2020 | 10:33

Tropical Storm Isaias blew into the area on Aug. 4 with what many say was the equivalent to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Felled tree limbs were testament to the force of the wind, which in some towns knocked out the power in nearly every household. Officials from Sussex County’s Office of Emergency Management say 28,000 residents were left without power on Aug. 4.

According to Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), 98 percent of households in Sussex Borough and 93 percent in Wantage Township were still without power two days after the storm, along with 27 percent in Sparta and 42 percent in Stanhope. At one point, 78 percent of Byram township was without power, according to officials.

JCP&L offered free water and ice to customers without power. The utility estimated that it would take a week before all households were fully restored. As of Aug. 10, fewer than five customers in Hamburg were still without power, and 36 in Hopatcong.

Route 515 in Vernon was closed for days after the storm’s rage due to downed trees and power lines. Logs cut and stacked on the sides of the road by the utility will provide locals with firewood this winter.

Strong winds unexpected

Robert Haffner, director of Emergency Preparedness with the County Office of Emergency Management, said the storm was originally anticipated to be more rain and less wind than what ultimately happened. But after the storm moved west, the wind became the greater threat. Tornado watches were called for in many areas throughout Sussex County, he said, and although no tornadoes ultimately touched down here, pockets of wind landed in areas countywide, causing trees and branches to fall on power lines. The tree damage also led to road closures, with County Road 515 from Route 23 to County Road 638, County Road 607 from Lakeside Boulevard and the Hopatcong Police Department and County Road 620 from Waters Edge Drive to Hidden Glen Drive in Sparta, Haffner said.

According the Rutgers NJ Weather Network, the weather station at High Point measured over three inches of rain and winds at 41 mph, Haffner said. At the Sandyston and Walpack stations, he said, approximately four inches of rain and winds at 24 mph were recorded, and at the weather station in Vernon, slightly more than two inches of rain and winds of 62 mph were recorded.

JCP&L must first declare a wire dead before tree companies can do their work, Haffner said. After the trees are removed, the utility can repair or replace of a wires, poles, transformers, breakers, and other equipment. The county’s Road Department assists with tree removal if no wires are down, Haffner.

New Jersey’s Senate Republican caucus sent a letter on Friday to New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso, calling for the BPU to pressure utility companies to strengthen their grids, emergency communications and information updates, following weather events.

Storm safety tips
Be careful with generators: Local officials are also warning about the hazards of carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas that can kill without warning. For this reason, generators should never be operated indoors. Their exhaust outlets should always directed away from open doors and windows.
Report outages and downed lines: Power outages and downed power lines may be reported in the following ways: call 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877), by clicking the “Report Outage” link on firstenergycorp.com, or by texting out to 544487.
Avoid downed lines: JCP&L urges using extra caution in areas where downed lines are tangled with trees or other debris. Motorists are cautioned to treat intersections with inoperable traffic signals as four-way stops. Never touch downed lines, which should always be treated as if they were live. They are extremely dangerous and can lead to severe injury or death.
Help for neighbors and pets: Municipal Community Emergency Response Teams, or “CERTs” can assist if shelters are opened and to check on neighbors. “CART,” or the Community Animal Response Teams, helps deliver pet foods to those who may not be able to leave their homes.
“Register Ready”: Residents with disabilities and special needs can also register with New Jersey’s “Register Ready,” with links on the state, county and many municipal websites, to enable first responders to provide assistance during and following weather events.