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PSE&G and NJ Officials, Including Westfield Town Administrator, Explore Storm Options

Mindy Scarlett

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 • 10:10pm

WESTFIELD, NJ–Westfield Town Administrator Jim Gildea attended a special meeting on Tuesday presented by the New Jersey League of Municipalities and PSE&G to look at the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and define what issues need to addressed by the utilities going forward..

Ralph LaRossa, President of PSE&G, presented an overview of what was done prior to the storm, what issues had to be dealt with during the storm and what courses of action are being considered after the fact.

“We brought in tree trimmers even before the storm, and did major trimming around infrastructures such as hospitals and we brought in hundreds of lineman from all over the US,” said LaRossa.  PSE&G  also freed up regular crews by completing routine work early, shipping in major loads of supplies and preparing substations against flooding.

However, most of these measures did not stand up to the conditions brought about by Superstorm Sandy.

“The only thing the forecast got right was the amount of rain.  Winds were predicted at up to 65 miles-per-hour and they came through at over 90-miles-an hour; the storm surge we were expecting was between three and six feet and our highest point was actually 13 and a half feet. It was this storm surge that did most of the damage.”

LaRossa then outlined the origins of many of the issues faced by towns in the aftermath of the storm.

“Our call center was without power for two days, we had thousands of lineman from all over the country who were reporting in at 11 pm at night with paper reports," said LaRossa. "These had to be collected, entered into the system and a report generated that would show what work needed to be done for the next day.”

The underlying issue was that the flooding of so many major substations made it impossible to bring power back on line quickly. The question on everyone’s lips was: “Why was not more done to protect these substations?”

LaRossa gave the history of the substations, in that there were built over 100 years ago next to where industry was booming – near the rivers.  This now presents the choice of either moving or raising these substations. While PSE&G is exploring many options, there is no one obvious solution and no matter what is done it will involve major changes to infrastructure with the ensuing high price tag.

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