Getting Back On The Grid - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Getting Back On The Grid

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By Dianne Doctor/Fox 5 News

In heavily wooded Morris County,  New Jersey, Sandy's wrath left trees laying across power lines, and tossed poles that bear the bundles of power, cable, and telephone wires around like matchsticks.  Our fragile infrastructure, relying on these poles, was laid to waste.  Some residents were trapped for days in their homes as trees blocked their driveways.  While the recovery at the devastated Jersey shore was the focus of attention, thousands of crews from out of state also spent the weekend inching through these North Jersey areas; the tree crews sawing away branches and trunks that crushed the wires and poles, the line men in bucket trucks painstakingly stretching new wires between the poles moving block by block, house by house.

Gary, Ron, Brian and Bill were among the thousands of out-of-state hired guns from J.W. Didado Electric – subcontracted by the local power company, JCP&L.  They arrived from Cleveland, Ohio last week, and  in two trucks, on Sunday, they were on the front lines on my street in Boonton Township. 

Amazingly, they had created an effective system in the snarl of debris, as they methodically moved from pole to pole, one guy in the bucket, another un-rolling the cable, and another making sure there were new connecters that secured the wires in place.

Neighbors out for a walk stopped to chat and express appreciation, sympathy at the enormity of the job, and offer snacks.   On our block, most homes had been dark and cold for almost a week, the new "haves" were those few with generators.  The Ohio repair crew complained that the work was slow going because someone had come through and stolen the expensive copper wires that had been disengaged from the poles during the storm. 

At my powerless house which is set back from road, there was much to do. The storm had tossed a tree on a power line, and that stretched the electrical wires so taut they stripped the conduits from the back of the home.  I learned quickly that when wires and other equipment which is attached to your home is damaged by a storm, you, the homeowner —not the power company--  are responsible for the fix, and for making sure that it is safe for power to flow into your home.  For already stressed residents this may come as a shock.  Try to find a licensed electrician to do the work, and a town inspector to certify it in the midst of disaster recovery!

It took a Herculean logistical effort ;  but ultimately over the weekend a kind electrician repaired the damage, and an inspector certified it. Then, the Didado gang, who luckily were still on the street, sawed apart the tree that was laying across the line, repaired the connections, and physically re-attached wires laying menacingly across the backyard, to the conduit at the back of my home.  

With the sun going down and darkness fast enveloping the area, it was the last thing the guys from Cleveland did before flipping the switch to turn on the lights and heat, and restoring sanity to a grateful neighborhood.

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