Oct. storm a new blow after Irene

Posted: November 01, 2011

POMPTON LAKES, N.J. - The rare October snowstorm that cut power to hundreds of thousands of residents in North Jersey clobbered communities still recovering from flooding two months ago caused by Hurricane Irene, leaving homeowners exhausted and demoralized.

In Pompton Lakes and neighboring Wayne, many said they only returned to their homes in the last two weeks. Several families spoke of having just done their first major food shopping since Irene - food that was rotting in freezers without power.

Dave Sisco's SUV was parked in his drive Monday, where a patch of sun fell on his face. He was trying to find a spot warm enough for a nap after a cold, sleepless night. The 58-year-old Pompton Lakes resident said he had wanted to sell his home for years, but a recent stroke left him needing to remain near the local hospital.

"It's terrible, very terrible. No power. No gas. Food in the refrigerator is no good. Sleeping in 27 degrees, and we're still not recovered from the flood. The house is still a wreck. Trees are still down in the backyard, our gazebo is smashed," Sisco said.

Saturday's nor'easter forced the closure of dozens of schools and left about 400,000 customers still without electricity Monday afternoon. Gov. Christie said utility damage was worse than that caused by Irene, which left one million customers without power. The governor said 95 percent of power should be restored by Thursday.

Town officials in the region worried that cleanup would stretch already-depleted budgets to the breaking point.

"No communities budget for any kind of storm this early," said Scott Heck, borough manager and public works director for Ringwood, where hundreds of trees were toppled. "This is absolutely going to affect our budget. Normally you come in and plow the snow, but now you have to plow to get to the trees, clear the trees, come back to do more plowing and then clear away all the debris."

The power outages forced some to take refuge in makeshift shelters, including one in the gymnasium at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack.

"Since I came here it's been crisis," said Hossam Shahin, 19, from Egypt. "First earthquake, then hurricane, now snowstorm. Everything is strange and weird because we never had hurricane and snowstorm in Egypt."

Those taking it the hardest were the New Jersey residents still reeling from Irene.

"Honestly it's a nightmare, but I pray it will turn out for the best," said Mercedes Hidalgo of Pompton Lakes.

Hildago's home had to be gutted after two feet of water destroyed the first floor during the hurricane. She had just finished having an expensive electrical heating system installed in her home.

At least two storm-related deaths were reported in North Jersey over the weekend, one in a house fire caused by a downed power line, another in a car crash.

The governor and his family were among those who lost power. The lights went out around 3 p.m. Saturday at Christie's Mendham home and weren't restored until about 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Christie, his wife and four children stayed in their home Saturday, when temperatures reached 47 degrees. But they headed to the governor's mansion in Princeton on Sunday night, only to briefly lose power there.

"I know if you are without power today, Thursday seems like a long time from now," the governor said. "I understand that all this information, if you are someone who doesn't have power, is just talk until the lights go back on and the heat goes back on in your house. I get that. I lived it over the last 36 hours."

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