As Sandy Strikes, Westfield’s Mayor Urges Residents to Stay Indoors
Monday, October 29, 2012 • 7:01pm
WESTFIELD, NJ—As of 7 p.m., PSE&G is reporting that between 2,001 and 5,000 customers in Westfield have lost power. Widespread, prolonged outages are expected.
Lights or no lights, Mayor Andy Skibitsky is urging residents to stay in their homes. He is issuing updates on Westfield’s response to Hurricane Sandy on the town’s website, www.westfieldnj.gov.
Westfield Public Schools will remain closed Tuesday, October 30.
At an emergency town council meeting held October 28, Town Administrator Jim Gildea gave assurances that, when it comes to this storm, “We are very, very prepared for everything that comes our way.”
Nevertheless, Westfield Fire Chief Daniel Kelly warned “This is a storm of historical proportion.”
“The thing we really need to stress to residents is to stay off the roads,” said Mayor Skibitsky. “Stay inside.” And, he added, “Any downed wires, expect that they’re live.”
If you see downed wires, immediately call 911.
Skibitsky has been in touch with PSE&G and, although the company has taken precautions—including erecting a 4-foot wall around a substation in Cranford that took out much of Westfield’s power during Irene—he said, “I think we ought to expect widespread, prolonged outages.”
If your home loses power, it is important to contact your power company, as they have no other way of knowing which customers are without electricity
Although Westfield is not prone to the same intense flooding that can affect nearby towns, localized street flooding is expected.
“Remember, do not go near ponding or moving water,” said Skibitsky via a message on the town’s website.
Skibitsky has said that Westfield is prepared for the possibility that some residents could need emergency shelter, especially if high winds cause a large tree to fall, causing severe structural damage to a home. If your home becomes uninhabitable and you are unable stay with friends or family, call the Westfield police department at 908-789-4000 and shelter will be arranged.
Westfield police, fire and public works departments are fully staffed, and any planned staff vacations have been canceled.
Chief of Police David Wayman stressed, “911 must be utilized only for emergencies,” and added that the dispatch center will be fully staffed.
Kelly urges residents to say inside. “We recommend that you walk your pets in your backyard, and look out for tree limbs.”
For the many residents who bought portable gasoline generators after losing power during last year’s Hurricane Irene and surprise October snowstorm, Kelly warned of the danger they pose. “Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations,” he said, adding that gasoline generators must be kept outdoors—not in a garage—as the carbon monoxide that they create can be deadly.
Candles, too, can be a source of danger, as the fire chief has seen firsthand. “Don’t leave a candle unattended,” he warned, and he reminded people to remove all decorative material from and keep combustible material away from candles.
Police Chief David Wayman said that the Westfield PD began implementing their strategical emergency operations plans on Thursday in anticipation of the storm. Staffing will was increased starting midnight October 28. Police officers who do not live near Westfield are being put up in local housing so that they do not have to commute during dangerous conditions.
The volunteer rescue squad is prepared and the police department is fully stocked with emergency supplies and has all of the necessary equipment, he said. Wayman also expressed complete confidence in the radio system, which was also used for dispatch for Cranford when Hurricane Irene took down that town’s system.
“There’s no question that we’ll get through this,” said Wayman.
When the storm clears, Public Works Superintendent Claude Shaffer has said that the department will clear tree limbs from streets as quickly as possible, but warned that live wires must be de-energized by PSE&G before that can be done.
Gildea added, “We have to make sure our employees are going to be safe.” For residents, this will mean waiting until the storm is over for branches and debris to be cleared from streets.
“Frankenstorm,” as it has been dubbed, has the potential to strongly affect Westfield’s finances. “From a budget perspective, no town is budgeted for this,” said Gildea. However, he added, “We are much more aware now of what to record for potential FEMA reimbursements.”
Recycling pick-ups scheduled for wards 1 and 2 on Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30, have been rescheduled for Friday, November 2.
Westfield’s town council is discussing the possibility of moving trick-or-treating from October 31 to a later date, if necessary for safety’s sake.
For the latest information about how Hurricane Sandy is affecting Westfield, visit the town’s website, www.westfieldnj.gov, follow the town of Westfield on Twitter and keep coming back to thealternativepress.com/towns/westfield.
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