Emergency management officials began Tuesday to tally the costs of last weekend’s rare wind-driven thunderstorm, but putting an exact figure on the damage will take weeks.
“Unfortunately, there’s so much damage, it’s going to take time to account for all of it,” said Ed Conover, deputy coordinator of the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Management.
Meanwhile, the estimates ran the gamut, and in many cases did not factor in the damage to private property.
Vineland Business Administrator Denise Monaco said preliminary estimates show the hard-hit city suffered at least $100 million in damage to public and private property.
Both Atlantic City and the Atlantic City International Airport saw several millions dollars worth of damage, officials said.
State Police Lt. Thomas Scardino said there could eventually be enough damage for the state to apply for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said residents should report damage to their county emergency management office.
The storm cost Atlantic County alone $10 million, Conover said.
Atlantic County Emergency Management Chief Vince Jones said some areas would essentially have new electrical systems because of the severe damage.
He said as many as 20 poles on a single street need to be replaced. Somers Point’s transmission lines were so damaged, Jones said they need to be rebuilt.
Matt Likovich, an Atlantic City Electric spokesman, said the goal is to have the majority of customers’ service restored by sometime today. The remainder may not have power restored until Thursday or Friday.
As of 5:15 p.m., fewer than 63,000 customers were still in the dark, down from 93,000 on Monday afternoon. These included about 37,000 customers in Atlantic County. Nearly 10,500 residents were without power in Cumberland County, along with 5,000 in Cape May County and fewer than 100 in Ocean County.
State Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said investigators are checking on instances of price-gouging and illegal contractors.
“This is the lowest form of behavior,” he said.
Atlantic City storm damages may cost in excess of $5 million, said Tom Foley, municipal emergency management coordinator.
Paul Jerkins, the city’s public works director, said the city had to replace several traffic light controllers that cost about $25,000 apiece and somehow burned out in the storm. The storm also destroyed overhead traffic signal arms and uprooted trees that obliterated sidewalks. There also were overtime costs.
The roof on Surf Stadium was also badly damaged, he said.
In Absecon, police estimated 30 homes, 12 cars and eight businesses combined for $220,000 in damages. They also said one person was injured while removing a fallen tree.
At the Atlantic City International Airport, spokesman Kevin Rehmann said early estimates were several million dollars worth of damage occurred.
“Some of the smaller planes were moved around and there was some damage to some of the helicopters,” said Rehmann, operations manager for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the airport and the Atlantic City Expressway. The storm also damaged some runways, but did not delay any commercial flights.
By comparison, the storm cost the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the Garden State Parkway, about $6,000 in overtime for parkway maintenance personnel, spokesman Tom Feeney said.
The storm cut a path of destruction across the northern portion of Cumberland County, leaving the southern portion relatively spared. Deerfield Township Emergency Management Coordinator John Barbagello said the storm would cost about $60,000 to reopen the 17 miles of township roads and clear the debris and downed trees from the township’s two parks.
In neighboring Upper Deerfield Township, Mayor James P. Crilley said the township reopened its municipal building and senior center Tuesday, and said the damage would cost taxpayers about $60,000.
Millville Mayor Tim Shannon said the city is still adding its storm-related expenses, but knows it has to deal with at least 162 hours of overtime for its Police Department.
President Rick Dovey said the Atlantic County Utilities Authority’s next challenge is dealing with an influx of yard waste from all of the trees felled by the storm. Recycling and trash collection would continue today, he said, but the yard waste may take a while to collect and mulch.
Municipalities that operate their own solid-waste disposal also started to clean up.
“We were out of mulch last week,” said Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough of Egg Harbor Township, adding that the public works facility will now be overflowing with yard waste.
Staff Writers Thomas Barlas, Lynda Cohen and Joel Landau contributed to this report.
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