Severe Thunderstorms Rock the Area

Coaster photo – A portion of Sixth Avenue in Neptune was still closed early Wed., July 24 while crews chopped up and carted away this fallen tree.

By JOANNE PAPAIANNI and DON STINE

Severe thunderstorms in the evening Mon., July 22 caused massive power outages in the area, leaving thousands of PCP&L customers without power. Many still in the dark in Neptune and Oakhurst on Wed., July 24 at press time.

“This is the most significant power outage since Superstorm Sandy,” said Michael Bascom, Neptune’s Coordinator of Emergency Management.

Bascom said that as of Tuesday, Neptune still had more than 5,000 customers without power throughout the township, especially in Shark River Hills, the Midtown area, and Western Neptune. The power outages were caused primarily by downed trees. By late Tuesday some homes in Shark River Hills had power restored.

“Trees also destroyed one house and significantly damaged five others, all in different areas of the township,” he said.

He said about 400 senior units, the senior center, and the public works department were without power and that the municipal building, including the police department, were using power from generators.  Traffic lights were out on Neptune Boulevard, and Routes 33, 35 and 66

“We still have roads closed due to downed trees and are putting out information about power outages, the safe operation of generators, and power restoration safety,” he said.

Bascom said there were also two structural fires in the aftermath of the storm, one resulting in a death.

“JCP&L continues to tell us they are in safety mode, which means they are coming out, removing live wires, and then moving on. JCP&L will first focus on critical facilities in the region. They also have 1,200 people coming in to help.

Jersey Shore University Medical Center, on Route 33, was also on generator power after the storm but had power was restored early Tuesday morning.

Bascom said residents can expect significant delays in having their power restored and should prepare accordingly.

“Some residents may be without power for perhaps days,” he said.

Debbie Donovan, who lives in the Shark River Hills section of Neptune, said was “befuddled” that it was taking so long to get the power back on.

“I feel we are always last in Shark River Hills,” she said.

But on the bright side she and her 12-year-old grandson who was staying with her enjoyed playing board games and cards.

“I taught him how to play 500 Rummy and Solitaire and we take short drives around to charge the phone,” she said. “When he had the opportunity to go back home to Long Branch he said he didn’t want to leave me here in the dark.”

In Ocean Township, Public Works Director Tom Crochet there were many trees down, perhaps in the hundreds. About 30 were blocking roadways, with some still entangled in power lines.

“Oakhurst got hit the hardest,” he said.

Many traffic signals were out as of Tuesday morning but most were repaired by the afternoon. Several homes and cars were also hit by fallen trees.

More than 1,600 people scattered throughout the township lost power, with many in the Oakhurst section.

Crochet said JCP&L was still doing an assessment of situation on Tuesday but he warned people that power outages may last into the weekend.

“We will begin a township-wide cleanup in a day or two and it could take up to a month to get it all cleaned up,” he said.

In Asbury Park Mayor John Moor said the city survived the storm quite well considering the problems in neighboring town.

“We had five trees down which were  cut and put to the curb so first responders could access all streets,” he said.  “ We originally had well over 1,500 customers without power, the last number I saw was 215.  I would like to thank all of the first responders including DPW for doing a great job.

Interlaken had little damage from the storm, with some falling debris and a tree branch hitting Borough Hall. In Deal, a couple of cars were damaged by falling trees and there was minor damage to some buildings. About 250 residents lost power, which was still out as of Tuesday afternoon.

In Neptune City Mayor Robert Brown said he couldn’t be happier with the first responders, police, fire and first aid.

“They were all on standby and did a tremendous job. I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “We were able to give mutual aid to Neptune for the structural fire they had. Our Office of Emergency Management is up and running.”

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