POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (AP) — Residents and businesses that had only recently regained electricity after losing it in Superstorm Sandy last week found themselves in the dark once again on Wednesday as a nor’easter smacked the storm-ravaged New Jersey region.
High winds, a surging tide and heavy wet snow hit as many coastal and low-lying communities were newly vulnerable to flooding, wind damage and power outages.
“So we’re getting ready for another storm,” Gov. Chris Christie said, noting that New Jersey residents and emergency workers were still weary from last week’s assault. “I’m waiting for the locusts and pestilence next.”
Christie warned residents, many of whom have only recently gotten electricity back following Sandy, that they could lose power again. And they did.
“I know it’s awful to think we might take a few steps back,” he said in a briefing on Long Beach Island, which remains off-limits to residents after Sandy’s devastation. “I can see us moving backwards, people who have gotten power back losing power again.”
Public Service Electric & Gas, the state’s largest utility, said it was getting reports of new power outages Wednesday that appeared to be due to the new storm, expected to linger into Thursday. The customers included some who said they had just gotten power back in the last day or so.
“We just lost power again,” a resident of Englewood wrote in a message to the utility on Twitter. “Most likely storm related, no specifics early, hang in there,” the company responded.
A feed also died to a substation late Wednesday, knocking out power to 8,000 customers in the East Brunswick area. Repairs were completed by early Wednesday night, and the substation was restored around 8:15 p.m. Utility officials say the failure was caused by the nor’easter.
“This has been a tough stretch,” said PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson.
Jersey Central Power & Light said it was also getting scattered new reports of outages. The utility said it didn’t know if they were coming from areas where power had been lost during Sandy and restored.
About 360,000 customers remained without power late Wednesday, down from 2.76 million, as a result of Sandy. But that was before customers started reporting new outages.
Among several shore communities, municipal officials decided evacuations were needed: Brick, Middletown, Point Pleasant, Toms River and Berkeley.
Katie Wilford was leaving her Brick Township home near Barnegat Bay as the nor’easter approached. She bundled her sons Nick, 14, and Matthew, 10, into the minivan in search of an open motel.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” she said. “I can’t believe we’re doing this again. We’re going on Day 10 with no power. That’s a long time. I just want the sun to come out and things to be normal again.”
Adding a new complication: snow. Forecasters said accumulations of 3 to 6 inches were possible in some areas. Places that didn’t get snow were expected to see 1 to 2 inches of rain.
National Guard troops were deployed to help run newly opened shelters. Truckloads of bottled water were arriving, and disaster relief agencies had set up temporary facilities to serve thousands of hot meals to evacuees.
In Point Pleasant Beach, emergency sand piles that had been hurriedly fortified were being tested hours later as waves pounded what was left of the storm-depleted beach.
Snow from the nor’easter covered piles of debris residents had dragged from their flood-wrecked houses, and flooding that had returned to some streets was beginning to freeze as temperatures dipped below the freezing mark.
Laura DiPasquale was in her third straight day of rummaging through dozens of trash bags at the curb that held the contents of her flooded house, trying to save anything of sentimental value.
“I found report cards, family photos all wet and stuck together and dripping,” she said. “Today was a hard day.”
As DiPasquale toiled, Susie Marshall drove up in a sport utility vehicle, rolled down the window and asked if DiPasquale wanted a cup of coffee. Marshall was driving around storm-ravaged neighborhoods offering hot coffee to anyone hauling contents of their damaged homes outdoors.
“To go through last week was bad enough,” Marshall said. “Now all their stuff is outside at the curb. It’s not garbage; it’s their lives. And maybe they might have been able to salvage some of it. But now snow is all over it. This is just traumatic for people who are still in shock from last week.”
Public works crews up and down the shore were using bulldozers, front-end loaders and earth movers to push tons of sand back onto what was left of the beaches. But as Bay Head Councilwoman D’Arcy Rohan Green noted earlier this week: “We no longer have a dune system; there are just piles of sand back on the beach. Hopefully, they will hold.”
In Brick, Ray Sherman, 30, left his home in a low-lying area, even though he didn’t think the nor’easter would be as bad as predicted.
“The thought of rain, snow and high wind doesn’t bother or scare me, but the possibility of more flooding does,” he said. “I think Sandy washed away a lot of our protection, and I’m also concerned about losing power again, especially now that it’s getting colder out.”
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