Essex County: Many Schools Closing Monday
Widespread power outages are forcing schools in many towns to close.
Public schools started to announce closures Sunday afternoon as the county continued to dig itself out from a heavy out-of-season snowstorm that caused downed trees and power outages.
West Orange, Bloomfield, Montclair, Millburn, South Orange-Maplewood, West Essex and schools in Caldwell/West Caldwell will be closed Monday, along with Seton Hall Prep and Caldwell College.
The majority of public schools in Newark are open Monday, with the exception of five, which are without power post-storm.
New Jersey Transit said service will remain suspended Monday on the Morris and Essex Lines, and the Montclair-Boonton Lines. On Sunday, the agency said there were 30-minute delays are expected on buses and it will cross-honor transit tickets.
Though the sun was bright on Sunday and the snow began to melt, the power outages and downed trees were still widespread.
Outages have affected Essex County's Office of Emergency Management, forcing the department to relocate from Codey Arena in West Orange to offices in Newark and Verona, according to Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.
The county executive said every municipality in Essex was affected by the storm. He also warned that trick-or-treaters should be careful of downed wires and parents should consider having their children trick-or-treat at safe havens, rather than door to door.
He said another big problem in the county is downed trees. He said crews will work round the clock this week to clear roadways, "No one expected this to hit as hard as it did."
Snow fell for an estimated 10 hours starting on Saturday, causing Gov. Chris Christie to declare a state of emergency. He urged people to stay home. Newark Mayor Cory Booker said Sunday at least 80 trees were down in his city and six crews were working to clear them. Roads were clear, though some streets have minor flooding.
On Sunday, Public Service Electric & Gas reported 309,000 customers out of power statewide by Noon, with at least 10,000 in Essex County alone. DiVincenzo said 70,000 county residents remained without power. Jersey Central Power & Light is in a "make safe" mode in Northern New Jersey today, as it tries to restore power to 270,000 customers.
Power companies warned parents against letting their children participate in mischief night, saying downed wires could cause a danger in the dark.
Snowfall totals ranged from 5.2 at Newark Liberty International Airport, to a high of 12 inches in North Caldwell. In West Orange, an estimated 8 inches fell, 6.3 inches in Bloomfield, 7.5 inches in Verona and 4.9 inches in Belleville. Snowfall totals were higher in other parts of the state.
One of the hardest hit towns was North Caldwell, where an estimated 85 percent of residents remained without power after about a foot of snow fell. The Short Hills Mall was closed, Saint Barnabas Hospital and Mountainside Hospital were using a back-up generators, but late in the day, Saint Barnabas was able to return to normal power.
DiVincenzo said the county has not set up a shelter for residents, but said certain municipalities, including Cedar Grove and Verona, are running their own shelters.
- In Montclair, PSE&G workers were trying to restore power to about half the town, but some workers estimated it would be two to three days before all of the power was restored. Fallen trees left many roads impassable.
- With all the downed trees and wires, getting power back on will most likely be a multi-day event, said Millburn Mayor Sandra Haimoff, who is in touch with the power company this time around. The township's condition forced officials to cancel its Halloween parade, for the first time in 61 years. The Short Hills Mall is also closed today. Haimoff said power company officials told her this morning that they hope to restore power to 50,000 to 70,000 customers today in the several counties in northern New Jersey without power."We have the same frustration as with Irene with the power being out but at least we are getting some information this time," she said. During Irene, the township could not even get in touch with JCP&L, she said.
- According to JCP&L's outage website, at 9:30 a.m., 3,307 customers in Short Hills and Millburn and 2,173 customers in Livingston are without power this morning, and most of those did not have power overnight. Haimoff said and JCP&L's Twitter remarks indicate that additional crews from Ohio and Central New Jersey are in Northern New Jersey working to make it safe and restore power.
- In South Orange, Village President Alex Torpey described a "historic number of trees down in the area. Crews have been out clearing roads all night." At least one person in South Orange was hurt after being hit in the head by a falling branch. Residents around South Orange report intermittent power outages, phone lines down and trees blocking streets. However, Board of Education vehicles and personnel were out by 7 a.m. this morning to ensure that parking lots and walkways are clear for Monday.
- Maplewood Township has set up a warming station and recharging center at DeHart Community Center on Burnett Avenue.
Mayor Vic DeLuca says that he is in constant contact with PSE&G but "it is hard for them to get precise information." DeLuca said that the trunk line or major power line serving Maplewood has been affected by the storm. As PSE&G works to repair it "sometimes it is not holding the charge." This is why power continues to come on and go off again. DeLuca also said that there are not that many full trees down in Maplewood, but many, many limbs are down.
- Cedar Grove Mayor John Zunic said the Verona Community Center is open for any residents needing a place to stay. "A lot of town is getting its power back. Hopefully by nightfall most will be back, but no guarantee yet."
- Both West Orange and Verona have opened up shelters for residents who may need them. In West Orange, a reverse 911 call to township residents late this afternoon said West Orange High School is open as a shelter for any residents who need it. In Verona, the Verona Community Center at 600 Bloomfield Ave. is open for Verona or Cedar Grove residents in need of a place to stay.
When asked if Monday's Howl-o-Ween event at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange was canceled, DiVincenzo said, "Absolutely not."
This story will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.