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Hurricane Sandy Will Test JCP&L Improvements

A problem could arise if strong storm winds hit trees and bring down power lines. But will JCP&L improve in their response time?

"Although the storm is now tracking further south, it is still expected to bring heavy rain, strong winds and flooding," said an email advisory sent to Summit residents late Friday afternoon. "At this time," the advisory said, "Hurricane Sandy is expected to begin impacting New Jersey as early as late Sunday with the full brunt of the storm hitting the area Monday into Tuesday."

This weekend, Summit public works employees will be making sure more catch basins (or, sewer grates) are clear, and potentially dangerous trees are cut. Flooding and power outtages are top concerns in preparation of what might hit the city in the next couple of days.

"Watch those trees," said Rich Caputo. "If we have a bad storm, people should stay inside," he said. "If it gets windy you could have a tree falling. People died last year."

Caputo, the Parks and Shade Tree Unit foreman for Summit, said public works started making storm preparations on Thursday, fueling up equipment such as chainsaws and trucks. Given his job, it's the trees he's most worried about.

"We're concentrating on more delicate trees," Caputo said, suggesting that the abundance of problem trees won't be entirely fixed by the time the storm is expected to pass through.

If the city's tree canopy is hit by strong winds it creates a dangerous situation. City Administrator Chris Cotter feels the bottom-line issue is how the city's electric utility reacts in the event of power outtages caused by trees or flooding.

Cotter, the city's emergency coordinator, led a meeting of top city officials on Friday where he discussed clearing catch basins and having public works and emergency personal on stand-by.

"I think the issue here, in addition to safety, is the need for having electrical service restored as soon as possible," said Cotter. "To the extent that we can improve coordination from the electric utility and the city," said Cotter, "that will lead to better outcomes."  JCP&L was criticized for how it responded to outtages that occured in last year's storm.

A representative from Jersey Central Power and Light was recently in Summit for a presentation on emergency service improvements. Cotter said the utility, which deals directly with his office in City Hall, has taken steps to position their resources in the event of heavy outtages due to Hurricane Sandy.

Still, JCP&L has a little something to prove to Summit. "This is going to be a real-time test of their capabilities," Cotter said.

To report power outages, the JCP&L  number is 888-LIGHTSS (888-544-4877).

Here are important numbers that you may need if you have non-emergency questions about the impending storm.

Christopher J. CotterEmergency Management Coordinator 908-522-3600  Robert WeckDeputy Coordinator/ Police Chief  908-273-0051  Joseph J. HouckDeputy Coordinator/Fire Chief  908-277-1033 



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