For those yet to have power restored in the wake of Hurricane Irene, it's cold comfort to know that 550,000 customers served in New Jersey by JCP&L had their electricity back as of Wednesday morning.
But, at a hastily-organized press conference Wednesday afternoon at the electrical provider's North Jersey headquarters in Morris Township, JCP&L President Donald Lynch said that, and that they are working around the clock to get the remaining 120,000 New Jersey customers still without power back online within the next several days.
"This is the worst storm we have seen in recent memory," Lynch said, noting the company provides electricity to approximately 1.1 million customers in Northern and Central New Jersey, across 13 counties. "We understand the frustration. We are doing everything we possibly can."
Hurricane Irene hit the Morristown/Morris Township area Saturday night into Sunday, causing the Whippany River the JCP&L substation on Ridgedale Avenue. With the substation inoperable, the utility agency has been working since the weekend to reroute power from other sources to get 19,000 customers in this area back online.
Nonetheless, as of Wednesday, many in New Jersey continued to report power outages. Lynch said during the conference that a lot of customers were still facing power outages not because of the failed substation, but because of continued heavy flooding, fallen trees and downed wires in some areas. "We also want to make sure the safety of our employees and public is our number one priority," he said.
Lynch referred to the Ridgedale Avenue substation as one of JCP&L's largest. During his 35 years with the company, he said, "I have never seen flooding of this magnitude."
Despite the substation being located within proximity to the Whippany River, Lynch said, "that is a great location where we are" and that the company would examine it to prevent future flooding.
Lynch said a lot of issues currently lie with the amount of rain that has fallen on the region this summer, causing the ground to become saturated, making tree uprootings much more possible. "There was just no place for the water to go," he said.
"I know this is tremendously difficult," he said. "We're going to be here. We're not going anywhere until every single customer is restored."