Most of the 106,000 Atlantic County residents who remain without power at this hour should see their power restored by the end of the day on the Fourth of July, Governor Chris Christie said following a meeting with high ranking county and state officials Saturday afternoon at the Anthony "Tony" Canale Training Center in Egg Harbor Township.
"There are some stragglers, and by that I mean a couple thousand people, who may not see service restored until the end of the week," Christie added. "And that depends on if another storm comes tonight."
According to Atlantic City Electric officials, 40 major lines were knocked out of service, and 26 have been repaired as of 7 p.m. Saturday night. They've called upon crews from other utilities from the midwest to the northeast.
"We had two hours notice of this storm, and that's not enough time to call on resources," Atlantic City Electric Atlantic City Region President Vince Maione said in a conference call Saturday evening. "These things can pick up steam, or they can slow down. This was one of the more severe storms we've had in a long time."
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the devastation caused by Friday night's storm was worse than that of Hurrican Irene last August.
Another storm is projected to hit the region Saturday night after what has been classified as a "weak tornado" with winds around 70 miles an hour hit the Mid-Atlantic Region Friday night, leaving Atlantic County in a , as declared this morning by the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness.
"That's not unusual for this time of year," Christie said of the weak tornado. "What is unusual is that the effects were so widespread, and we're still susceptible to a storm, so we need to be careful."
Christie said Atlantic City Electric's immediate priority was to have substations and transmission stations restored before fully restoring power to the effected areas.
"We're also working to make sure we address the need for fuel," Christie said.
With power out in pockets all over the county, many gas stations were closed, and the few that were open saw lines stretching from the pumps out into the streets.
Christie said the state has arranged to have fuel and food delivered to areas in need via the National Guard. He also said restoring communications is a priority, and that cooling centers and water distribution centers would be set up in the area as needed.
"It is difficult to coordinate down here right now," Christie said.
He said Atlantic County Sheriff Frank X. Balles has requested the help of State Police to man major intersections that currently have no lights and no police presence. Earlier Saturday, the intersection of Pomona Road and the White Horse Pike in Galloway had no lights or police presence.
"On the positive side, hospitals are back up and fully operational," Christie said, adding that no one was ever really in danger, but that long-term care facilities were still having difficulties.
"The casinos all have power, so the tourism district is still available to anyone who wants to visit them," Christie said.
He said currently, there are no declared disaster areas, and the time of the recovery depends on the possibility of another storm coming tonight.
"If you don't have to be on the roads, don't go on the roads," Christie said. "There could be another storm coming tonight, so stay where you're safe."
Maione warned another storm would slow down restoration efforts.
"If it gets severe, we'll stop working, and start again when it lets up," Malone said. "You can't work in blinding rain with energized wires.
"This storm was very large and largely unanticpated. It will take time, but we will not let up until every customer is restored."
Maione warned residents to stay away from all downed wires, check on neighbors and not to distract repair crews on the road.
Christie also warned against the use of fireworks.
"You shouldn't have them anyway, but if you do have them, don't use them," Christie said. "We don't want to have fires because people are fooling around and putting everybody at risk. There's no need for senseless tragedies."
On a positive note, Christie said, all hospitals are fully operational.
Atlantic City Electric customers are asked to report outages at atlanticcityelectric.com or by calling 1-800-833-7476 and following the prompts on the automated system.
If reporting an emergency or another life-threatening situation such as downed wires, customers should immediately call 1-800-833-7476 and follow the appropriate prompts.
Atlantic City Electric also recommends, when reporting an outage, customers request a call back. Call backs allow them to notify customers when work in their area is completed and they also help locate outages that may be specific to customers’ homes.
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