By Brian Deakyne
LITTLE SILVER — It has been a week filled with troubles for borough residents, most of whom spent the duration of it cleaning debris from their homes and keeping warm without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Strong storm surges brought power outages to the area on Monday, Oct. 29, leaving several residents without heat and some property damage for more than a week. At the height of the storm, the biggest issue for residents was fallen trees landing on homes and vehicles and blocking roads.
“I had two trees down in my yard, and luckily, one just missed my car,” said resident Janet Denoia.
With temperatures dropping each night, a major problem for the borough has been finding places for people to stay. During the day, the Little Silver Library has been open for residents to keep warm and charge electronic devices, but the library closes at night because the borough does not have proper authorization to keep it open, which would require police officers to staff it.
“Right now, there isn’t a demand for an authorized shelter,” Mayor Robert C. Neff Jr. said. “We’ve been able to reach out to some residents and they have been able to stay with friends and family to keep warm at night.”
Staying warm was a concern for Denoia, who was without power for six days. “Eventually being cold gets to you. No one wants to be cold,“ she said.
Other residents said they had flooding issues in the lower levels of their homes – some of which they had never seen before or were prepared to deal with.
“People are losing contents on the first floor of their homes,” Neff said. “You see a lot of people with first floor contents on the street because it’s ruined.”
The borough is expecting to hire a contractor later this week to help get rid of debris that residents are unable to remove themselves, Neff said. The town is also expecting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse them for the contractor.
Nearly one-third of Little Silver was still without power from the storm as of press time Tuesday, according to Neff, who said the target date for having power completely restored was Wednesday.
“We’re very frustrated with one-third of our residents without power,” he said. “There is a lot of discomfort for those residents without power and I think JCP&L (Jersey Central Power & Light) really needs to get a move on to take care of them.”
Neff said he was told by JCP&L that the date was originally set for Wednesday for all borough residents to have their power back, although on Monday, the company told him they were slightly ahead of schedule. The power company also said they would have about 200 more residents with power by Tuesday, Neff said.
For now, though, Neff’s biggest concern is getting power restored to the town and helping residents get on with their normal lives.
“It’s so frustrating because I can’t get information on specific neighborhoods or a more specific timetable,” he said. “We have a nor’easter coming in and we really need JCP&L to have these homes with power by the time it gets here.”
Little Silver is powered by three substations, each of which were dismantled in the hurricane. One of the substations required special parts to be flown in earlier this week for repairs, Neff said.
Neff said he was grateful for the “incredible emergency personnel and fire department,” and said, “I really can’t thank them enough.”
Through that personnel, Neff said, the town has been able to reach out to residents without power, and so far, there has been no demand for an authorized shelter.
“A lot of people have been staying with friends and family. The elderly and other people that we checked in on have all been OK,” he said.
Slowly, but surely, Little Silver has been returning to normal. With the election Tuesday, many people were around town and working toward that normalcy again.
“I’m surprised how slow it’s been,” said Linda Roache, a resident who lost power for four days. “I was lucky with no damage, but I’ve been hearing horror stories. Even people who live 100 yards away from me are pretty bad.”
Throughout the week, Little Silver reported no injuries or deaths.
“We’re very thankful for no injuries, to either emergency and utility workers or residents,” Neff said. “So, we have some problems, but compared to some other places, we’re pretty lucky.”