With thousands of homes still without electricity, Atlantic City Electric suspended power-restoration operations Wednesday afternoon as a blizzard’s gusting winds and near-whiteout conditions threatened utility crews’ safety. It was the second blizzard to hit southern New Jersey in four days, and came amid a winter that has seen record-breaking snowfall amounts in the area.
The National Weather Service reported that season-long snow accumulation at Atlantic City International Airport through 8 p.m. Wednesday was at 50.1 inches — exceeding the 46.9 inches that fell in 1966-1967 and making this winter the snowiest ever seen in southern New Jersey.
About 10,000 Cape May County homes were without power for a fourth day following last weekend’s blizzard when restoration work was suspended at about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. By 4 a.m. Thursday, the number of outages across southern New Jersey was up to about 30,000.
http://www.atlanticcityelectric.com/home/emergency/maps/stormcenter/" target="_blank">Click here for a map of electrical outages across the region.
Vince Maione, a regional president for the utility, said the crews had so far replaced 50 utility poles and nine miles of wire in Cape May County, but that the latest storm would push back power restoration for some customers to the end of the week.
“Although this latest storm could complicate our efforts and push back restoration times, we’re going to continue working with public officials on this effort to restore service to customers as quickly and safely as possible,” Maione said. “This was an historic storm that left a broad swath of destruction in its wake, and we’re working hard to fix the damage. In some cases, we’re essentially rebuilding portions of the system.”
Al Moore, of Wildwood, and others without electricity have been bounced around as shelter generators died, or shelters moved or were too small.
Moore, arriving at his fourth emergency shelter in four days, was one of the first people at the Wildwoods Convention Center, one of two “super shelters” that opened Wednesday afternoon and were being used to consolidate shelters and resources stretched thin by waves of snow, ice and power outages.
“Give me somewhere where I can get settled,” Moore said.
In Wildwood, the Byrne Community Center’s electric generator died after two days for unknown reasons, causing dozens to relocate to the Holly Beach Firehouse, which does not have a generator but fortunately had electricity, Wildwood Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Davenport said. Not wanting to risk having the power go out overnight, officials moved those at the shelter to Middle Township Elementary School No. 4 in Cape May Court House.
NJ Transit buses on Wednesday transported people back to the Wildwood’s Convention Center, which is capable of housing as many as 1,000 people. The Woodbine Developmental Center was the other “super shelter.”
In Lower Township, Chad and Jan Randle escaped the first blizzard with their electricity intact. They thought they had escaped the second one, too. After all, they live in a housing development called Tranquility.
“We thought we were exempt. It’s not called Tranquility for nothing,” Jan said.
Their luck ran out, however, at about 3 p.m. Wednesday. The power went out in most of the development, which is off the southern terminus of the Garden State Parkway.
The Randles went to their friend’s house on the other side of the subdivision. Dan and Jane Senico also did not have power at this point — but they did have a fireplace.
“We’re at the Senicos playing pinochle by candlelight. We’re drinking wine to keep warm and putting snow in it,” Jan said.
The storm taught them something: The Randles had never played pinochle.
“We learned it during this storm,” Jan said.
It was just one of many stories of the storm.
Another had to do with identical twins: When the power went out at the home of New England Road resident Linda Amos on Saturday morning, she and her husband, Dennis, went to the Tranquility subdivision where Linda’s identical twin, Janet Sherwood, lives with her husband, Harry.
On Wednesday, power was restored to the Amos house — but then it went down at the Sherwood home. The Sherwoods ended up moving to the Amos house to weather out the second blizzard.
“We’re getting lots of quality time,” Linda said.
Elsewhere in Lower Township, Mayor Mike Beck said he knows how the people without power feel. He hasn’t had any since Saturday morning at his Villas home.
“I dug a hole in the snow to find my grill and then I barbecued chicken. I took some to my neighbor, who is a World War II vet, and he was pretty happy about that,” Beck said.
The mayor was not upset about Atlantic City Electric deciding to stop work on damaged power lines due to strong winds.
“You’d have trouble getting me up in one of those buckets right now. Having no electricy is one thing. Getting somebody hurt is another,” Beck said.
In Cape May, Mayor Ed Mahaney reported Wednesday evening that most of the city had power restored and city crews were able to clear most streets.
Mahaney said that on Saturday there were 3,200 units, or 80 percent of the city, without power. It was down to 2,800 Tuesday and just 450 Wednesday, the great majority summer units with nobody living in them.
Areas such as the Wildwoods will face severe problems even after the storm.
Standing water in local roads and melting snow are expected to refreeze and form thick sheets of ice. More than half of the island’s dwellings are second homes, and many homeowners won’t know if their pipes have burst or their roofs have been damaged by heavy snow, said Davenport, the emergency management coordinator.
“We don’t know what kind of water problems, leaking and structure damage we may see in the next few days,” Davenport said.
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