More New Jersey residents and businesses got power back as roads reopened, bus routes were added and Governor Chris Christie urged school districts to let students return.
“As long as there’s a safe environment, we should move kids as quickly as possible back to school,” said Christie, 50, a father of four. “This will be good and return normalcy to their lives, and even better for their parents.”
About 1.2 million New Jersey customers remain without electricity, down from a high of 2.7 million after Hurricane Sandy struck the state on Oct. 29, Christie said yesterday. He said he has met with the leaders of the state’s major utilities and continues to talk with them daily about restoration efforts.
“Rebuilding will be our next phase, and it will be the longest phase of the recovery,” Christie said after touring Little Ferry, which was evacuated along with neighboring Moonachie after the storm caused the Hackensack River to surge. The berm that failed to stop the water will be fixed “before the weekend is over,” Christie told residents.
At the church where Christie spoke, donors dropped off bags of clothing for those who had been flooded. Sharon Town, 46, from Little Ferry, an administrative assistant at New York University, brought men’s sweatshirts.
“It’s a lot of our friends,” she said of the victims. Town said her neighborhood had been pumped out, and they were grateful.
“The suffering here is just horrible,” she said.
Back to School
Many school districts in New Jersey were closed all last week because of storm damage. Of 589 districts, 252 will be open tomorrow, a number that Christie expects will increase.
Senator Paul Sarlo, a Democrat who also is Wood-Ridge mayor, said his district will accommodate 100 elementary school students from Moonachie when classes resume. They’ll have temporary classrooms in libraries and other spaces, continuing lessons with their own teachers and classmates, he said.
Sandy’s winds and floods blacked out about two-thirds of New Jersey and crippled the region’s transit system. It also flooded fuel terminals, curbed deliveries and left many filling stations in the dark and unable to run pumps. The death toll in New Jersey has risen to 23, Christie said.
Miles-long lines for gasoline were commonplace today, even after Christie ordered odd-even rationing at the filling stations that weren’t closed by power outages. Only 30 percent of stations are operating north of Interstate 195, which runs through the center of the state, while 95 percent of those south of that road are open, Christie said.
New Jersey Transit bus service is 90 percent restored, he said.
“If you ride NJ Transit buses, certainly by Monday when you’re getting ready to go to work, your NJ Transit bus service will be there,” he said.
New Jersey has more than 8,000 utility workers from out of state helping to restore power, Christie said. He released schedules from the utilities of when communities should have service.
“I still don’t have power at my home in Mendham, in Morris County, but my brother lives in the same town,” the governor said. “He called me down at the emergency center today and said there was a truck on his street from Ohio Edison.”
Atlantic City, the nation’s second-largest gambling market, reopened casinos Nov. 2. Power remained out in sections of the city while gas stations struggled to resume normal operations.
“There’s a lot of people that are really suffering here,” Harold Lane, 57, said in an interview in the basement of his apartment complex on the Absecon Inlet, where some of the worst flooding and damage occurred.
Some residents at the complex haven’t had power since Oct. 29, including senior citizens with medical conditions, Lane said. “I got cirrhosis of the liver and I’m supposed to be on a strict diet,” he said. “I can’t even cook. I could die.”
Electricity was restored at the city’s upscale Tanger Outlets mall, where shoppers visited stores like The Children’s Place, Reebok and Starbucks. Advertisements flashed on a jumbotron in front of Caesars casino, including one for “Wet ’N’ Wild Wednesdays” and another with the message: “Nice Try Sandy … But We’re Jersey Strong.”
More than half of the houses in Mantoloking were destroyed, Christie said.
“Between Bay Head and Island Beach State Park, it will be some time before it’s safe to walk around there,” Christie said. “It’s still not safe for people to go.”