August 12, 2020

Power Now Fully Restored for Princeton

By Anne Levin

At a meeting of Princeton Council Monday evening, Deanna Stockton, the town’s municipal engineer, got word that power was back on at the last remaining location where it had been knocked out by Tropical Storm Isaias nearly a week earlier.

“I’m very happy to report that all of the PSE&G outages have been restored so we have full electrical operation,” she said. “When we started the  meeting, we still had one outage on the map, but now that’s fixed.”

Most locations had power restored by Friday. But just after the storm on Tuesday, August 4, multiple roads were closed as a result of fallen trees and wires. Power and cell service outages were widespread. Among the roads blocked were Pheasant Hill Road near Province Line Road, Laurel Road, Cleveland Lane, Herrontown Road, North Harrison Street, Walker Drive, and Drakes Corner Road. Trees were suspended on wires at several locations.

Traffic signals were out on North Harrison Street at Terhune, Valley, and Mt. Lucas roads. The municipal building was open for people who sought relief from the heat or needed to charge devices.

More than one million New Jersey homes and businesses were left in the dark by the storm’s rain and winds. New Jersey was part of Isaias’ path up the East Coast, battering Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania before hitting New York and New England. One person in Maryland, one in New York, and two others in North Carolina died as a result of the storm. More than 20 tornadoes were reported from North Carolina to New Jersey. Surf City on Long Beach Island reported a wind gust of 109 miles per hour.

Gov. Phil Murphy urged New Jersey residents to stay off the roads during the storm. New Jersey Transit suspended service as of midday Tuesday.

At the Monday Council meeting, Mayor Liz Lempert thanked municipal staff for their response to the storm. “It was a huge event to hit Princeton, and it was complicated by having COVID on top of it, so a lot of responses had to be rethought and reconfigured,” she said. “Given the challenges, we acted creatively.”

Earlier in the day, Lempert said she was told by officials from PSE&G that the storm was not as bad as Hurricane Sandy, which hit in 2012, but on par with Hurricane Irene, which pummeled Princeton in 2011. “It was one of our worst storm events in terms of the number of people who lost power for more than 24 hours,” she said. “When it is more than Princeton that is impacted, and we have to share resources with surrounding communities, the response can be slow.”

Before the pandemic, people were able to rely on Princeton Public Library as a place of refuge during storms. But the library building has been closed since March. “The challenge now is how we respond and provide services to the community when we are complicated by COVID,” Lempert said. “People have been relying more than usual on the internet. So even if they had the power come back on, some of the cellular sites had not had power restored. This storm was definitely more challenging because of that. Everyone has been trapped in their homes. Everyone has had it. In terms of emotional fortitude, we are all spent and exhausted.”