HACKENSACK, N.J.– As the days without power turned into a week – then nearly two weeks – the residents of a dead-end street in West Milford began to feel they were living in a forgotten neighborhood.
With no utility workers around to suggest anyone was looking out for them, the residents of Hilltop Road looked out for one another in the days after Superstorm Sandy. People with generators offered food, power cords and hot showers to their neighbors, while others worked together to clear trees that had fallen onto homes.
And two women brought newborn babies home after residents cut up fallen trees that had blocked their street, clearing a path just wide enough to allow ambulances to get to them.
The neighborhood, which is served by Jersey Central Power & Light, became one of the last in the area after the storm to have power restored when five utility trucks rolled onto the street and workers made repairs around 4:30 p.m. on Monday. Some residents cheered and blew air horns.
One of them, Ed Justin, said the utility trucks, from Met-Ed in Pennsylvania, arrived a couple of hours after he found a foreman scouting a nearby area and told him about the neighborhood’s plight. Met-Ed and JCP&L have the same parent company, FirstEnergy Corp.
Justin said he told the foreman about the two newborns, about a 75-year-old man who had been sleeping in long johns and a sweat suit and covering himself with seven blankets to keep warm at night, and about another man who had been sleeping in his van and kept the engine running for heat.
“He felt what I was saying,” Justin, 51, said of the foreman. “He said, ‘I’ll have a crew come after lunch, I promise you.’”
A spokesman for JCP&L, Ron Morano, said on Tuesday that he had no information about the restoration of power to Hilltop Road. He said almost everyone who lost power during Sandy had it restored by Monday night, including 117 West Milford customers who had power restored Monday morning. He said crews were working to restore power to a small number of individual homes on Tuesday.
West Milford Mayor, Bettina Bieri has complained that some of the township’s JCP&L customers have been “treated like second-class citizens.” Township officials have said they are considering contracting with other utility companies and will discuss the matter at tonight’s council meeting.Frank Leitgeb, 75, said he slept in his van because it was more comfortable than his cold house, and kept the engine running to have heat. He said he watched classic movies on a TV in his van and ate at local restaurants.