As Customers Wait for Power, Crews Wait for Orders
FirstEnergy crews from out of state wait outside the Livingston Mall for directions for where to go.
The Livingston Mall parking lot had entire sections blocked off late Thursday morning for use by FirstEnergy employees. About a dozen workers, all in hardhats and reflective vests, drank coffee as they leaned on the bed of a pickup truck. Waiting.
"We've been here three or four hours [this morning]," said Bruce Carmichael, an employee of Alabama Power. "We sat longer in traffic."
Carmichael and approximately 50 colleagues from Alabama Power arrived in New Jersey Wednesday evening to help restore power to those still impacted by Saturday's autumn storm. Other crews stationed at the mall came from Michigan and Ohio to help the more than 16,000 JCP&L customers still without power, 1,300 of whom, shortly before 2 p.m. on Thursday, were from Short Hills and Millburn. By 10:30 p.m. Thursday, JCP&L said that local number was down to 332.
The workers outside the Livingston Mall said they need to know where the outages are before they can head out. Cedric Blakes said a JCP&L operation center contacts a foreman with an address or neighborhood that needs power. The foreman takes a pickup truck and some line men and engineers to scout the area and see what materials are needed.
"Then we only need to take one trip in traffic with the bucket," Blakes said.
The problem is, since they had arrived at the Livingston Mall Thursday morning, they hadn't received directions where to go yet.
"They gave us some orders, but when we went to scout, turned out someone else was already there," Blakes said. "It is unorganized."
However, the team finally received information for a job site at about noon. The workers started loading a truck with a new utility pole and other materials. They still did not know where their destination was.
Carmichael said the storm had not caused as much damage as he had expected.
"We have been around the world on storms," he said. "We had a storm [in Alabama] a while back that was pretty bad. People died in that. We had 6,000 broken poles in a one-week event. This is not a big storm to us."