Saturday, November 3, 2012

Montgomery Township FAIL

Still the same – 6 days and no change after Sandy. I am getting pissed off.  Very pissed off.

(some hurricane photos of mine HERE)

Hurricane Sandy hit on Monday night, 6 days ago.  We had lots of trees down blocking our three access roads to this neighborhood on Sourland Mountain, and we are maybe about 40 households up here. The trees pulled down not only internet, cable TV, phone but also power wires, and those latter ones can’t be moved until the power company comes by.  And not one power company truck has been seen until today, and the only change is that now there is some absorbent on the road to catch the leaking fuel from the upside down transformer hanging from the wire in the middle of the only road.  To get out, we have to drive under the hanging wires, which you can, at your own risk, if you don’t have a tall car. 

Many of our neighbors have been without power for 6 days now.  Friendly neighbors have cut up and moved the trees on the roads out of the way, but the other two of our roads are still blocked  - another transformer down on one, and very much leaning telephone pole across the other. They say power will be back in 7-10 days. 

Since Monday, no ambulance and no firetruck have been able to get up here to this area of the mountain.  A neighbor had 220V come into his house, it made an outlet explode and catch on fire and he put out the fire himself.  What if he hadn’t been home?  What if someone has a heart attack?  Shouldn’t it be the first priority of the township to make sure that they tell the power companies which roads that needs to be cleared first so they can get access to whole neighborhoods. 

Our local township, Montgomery, NJ, in Somerset County, has been incredibly poor in their handling of all of this.  And I assume our neighborhood is just one little part of large, large areas without power.  What people need the most is water, food, and information.  We have been well-prepared, so food and water has not been a problem, but information – abysmally absent.  NOT ONE phone call from the town.  Which by the way is run by five elected republicans… 

Oh, there is an election on Tuesday too, in case you didn’t know.  Three days before the election we had still to receive our voting ballots by mail (first mail was delivered on Friday, yesterday), and the township offices were still closed with no message of where to call for more information.  Our county board of election answered their phone and said it was up to each township to decide to postpone elections by 5 PM yesterday.  No news today about Tuesday’s election… we will have to call the county office to find out. 
The first police car showed up Thursday and Friday on our streets.  We had to erect the fallen down signs that the roads were closed, nobody else cared. 

OK, so if you signed up for text messages or emergency e-mails ahead of the storm, then you got some information, but both assumes people have cell phone service with internet access, and we are many that do not.  There will most likely be weeks before we get internet up here again…    But what bothers me most is that a fire truck or big ambulance can’t get up here – that is just horribly wrong.  And incredibly dangerous.  There are live wires hanging in trees, power lines ripped out of houses and laying on the ground, trees leaning everywhere – accidents are about to happen!  And if they do, then you are on your own.  Shouldn’t it be the townships first responsibility to secure the main access roads, and tell the power companies where the priorities are?

The radio stations have been horrible at giving local news.  The only exception was Brian Lehrer’s show who let people call in and ask any questions and report problems, and that was in NYC.  

Our supermarket Shoprite opened yesterday, and was running on generator power then, and today the full power is back.  Everything in the refrigerated and frozen sections had to be thrown out and are slowly being replenished.  There is plenty of drinking water to get there, so Shoprite has their priorities straight. 

The school office called and a recorded voicemail says – ‘Schools are open on Monday, and check our website for more information”.  How the h-l are we supposed to check the website?  Do they not realize that our roads are blocked?  No school bus can come up here?  The kids up here are supposed to walk under a power line hanging low over a road that is officially closed by the police?   Many people here drive carefully under that line right now anyway, at our own peril, so people can get gas for generators, food, ice, and medicines.  To fix that access road should be the highest priority, and the mayor should just get on the phone with FEMA and PSEG (our power company) and talk to them until that transformer in the road is removed.  

And why doesn’t the township use the giant list of local parents and their phone numbers from the school district to get out important information.  There is something called CONTIGENCY and EMERGENCY PLANNING – you use a multitude of ways to get out information and for people to contact you, you don’t rely on only one way of communication in times like this.  Some people will have a landline, some cell, some mobile internet, some TV and some nothing and then you can walk over to the neighbors .  The idea that only people with can afford to pay for mobile internet access deserve to get information bothers me enormously. 

The good news – We did fine in the storm and have no property damage, we have great helpful neighbors, and we say the first power company trucks today, seven of which were from Missouri, halfway across the country. A neighbor with a backhoe went around and cleared the trees from the roads the day after the storm as good as he could, just avoiding the trees with the power lines.  Without him many more people would have been trapped in their houses... 

I have seen more people walking our roads and chatting to strangers in the last couple of days than in months, and you get to know your neighbors, which is all good.
Conclusion: Total fail in government  emergency response here at the local level in our town, however, neighbors are fantastic.  Rutgers University failed equally when it comes to emergency information and updates, but more about that another time. It is amazing how governments rely on the internet these days to get out information, and how cut off you can get even if you are just a mile away from 'normalcy'. 

(All posted after driving under the powerline to a neighbor who has internet…)


EH said...

I have seen your photos, it really looks dangerous, be careful! I have seen the news on TV in Rhodes, Greece the last week. Mostly it´s been about New York were the flooding was 12 feet at least. Did you have rain or was it mostly wind? They spoke about 90 mph in the early reports.

What strikes me is also this, many trees that have fallen looks a bit "rotten inside". After the big storms we have had here in Sweden (storm Gudrun), many power lines are dug down and many other have more frequent clearings of trees. Your trees are very high so that might be impossible.

As for your local township, it looks like you really have a problem. I hope it will result in better emergency plans for the future.

LS said...

Yes, many trees are sick and rotten, and even if the powercompanies have gotten better at trimming the trees down, they rarely remove whole trees. And the telephone and cable TV companies (which provides internet) never do any trimming of trees or branches at all. They just let the trees grow straight onto the wires. I don't get it. But when giant, giant trees fall, then you can't prevent some trees falling on the lines, especially if every house has its own line and it is in a forest. I don't know if any underground power lines at all in NJ, except in some cities.

We had 80 mph winds during the height of the storm, at least that is what it was at the local airport. It was the worst wind I have ever experienced.

AnS said...

Så utsatt USA och det moderna samhället är. En fungerande radiostation skulle ha hjälpt upp situationen. Radiovågor är ju inte beroende av ledningar och internet. Under krig är ju det som fungerar bäst. Under andra världskriget satt ju alla i Sverige och lyssnade på nyheterna på radion.