N.J. town faces loss of natural gas

A sign is seen on the Garden State Parkway near Woodbridge, N.J., after a gas rationing system ordered by Gov. Christie went into effect at noon Saturday. Drivers with license plates ending in an even number will be allowed to buy gas on even-numbered days, and those with plates ending in an odd number can make gas purchases on odd-numbered days.
A sign is seen on the Garden State Parkway near Woodbridge, N.J., after a gas rationing system ordered by Gov. Christie went into effect at noon Saturday. Drivers with license plates ending in an even number will be allowed to buy gas on even-numbered days, and those with plates ending in an odd number can make gas purchases on odd-numbered days. (MEL EVANS / Associated Press)
Posted: November 05, 2012

Gov. Christie instituted odd-even gas rationing in 12 northern counties Saturday, as more than 1.2 million New Jersey customers remained without power and some seaside communities learned they would be without natural gas for the long term - in Seaside Heights, perhaps for six to eight months, officials there said.

Despite the continuing hardships, Election Day will go on, Christie said, albeit with a few adaptations that could include people casting their votes "old school with a paper ballot" on a military truck.

"We will have a full, fair, and transparent open voting process," he said.

The entire Philadelphia region, including Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania, still struggled with power outages, made more problematic by dropping temperatures. But the worst of it was clearly in New Jersey.

The death toll in New Jersey rose to 23 Saturday. Officials added a 44-year-old man from Union Township, Hunterdon County, to the tally. He suffered head injuries while using a chain saw to trim or cut down trees that had been damaged in the storm. His name was not disclosed.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is to travel to New Jersey on Sunday to meet with Christie and others and view recovery efforts.

Many Shore towns were still cut off. Heavy equipment removed mounds of sand from streets and sidewalks.

North Jersey's gas rationing, an attempt to ease long lines at service stations, was causing confusion and frustration.

At one Jersey City Sunoco station, city police officers waved motorists in and out to expedite the process.

One officer said a woman claiming to be pregnant tried to cut into the gas line, saying she was about to deliver. She soon did, in a way. A pillow popped out of her shirt.

To restore natural gas infrastructure in the first days after the storm, crews went house to house to assess damage to the lines and plugged 1,600 leaks. Officials then decided to shut down the system on Long Beach Island and from Bayhead to Seaside Park.

New Jersey Natural Gas made an initial request to FEMA for 5,100 electric space heaters.

Officials said Saturday that they were beginning a rigorous assessment of each section of pipeline, looking for damage that could include breaks and water intrusion. Only after that can they determine which parts can be salvaged.

NJNG spokesman Micah Rasmussen said the job was so complex he couldn't guess when it would be finished. "That's not an answerable question right now," he said.

Even when repair work begins, the company said, "the speed of the work will depend on the conditions encountered block by block, and house by house."

However, Seaside Heights officials posted an update on the borough website saying it could be six to eight months before natural gas service could be restored.

"The entire gas distribution system has been compromised," they said.

Residents still have not been allowed back to Seaside Heights.

Voting in N.J.

"There's no gas; we cannot live here," said Councilman Harry Smith. "I don't know where these people are going to go."

Most of Atlantic City's casinos reopened, and many New Jersey school districts decided to hold classes this coming Thursday and Friday, days previously reserved for a teachers' conference, which has been canceled.

Christie said his administration was making sure residents have opportunities to vote, even if their polling station is without power or has been washed away.

He directed county clerk's offices to stay open during the weekend so residents can vote. They also can text "WHERE" to 877877 or log on to www.elections.nj.gov to find out where they can vote on Tuesday. Mail-in ballot applications are available on the state website.

While power outages continued, PSE&G officials reported at 8 p.m. Saturday that eight northern substations had been "energized" since the morning.

On Sunday, 600 more workers were to join the more than 3,000 linemen and tree contractors working in PSE&G's service territory. The federal government is flying workers and their equipment from California to the McGuire Air Force Base, the company said.

At the Cape May Courthouse Library, storm victims crowded into the first of two FEMA disaster recovery centers in the state.

Among them was Robert Perez, who rents an apartment in West Wildwood. He woke up Monday morning to four inches of cold bay water inside his apartment. He and his roommate stuffed clothes and other essentials into a trash bag and left. They later were picked up by a Coast Guard truck, he said.

Throughout the region, officials in areas that weren't hit as hard were sending workers and equipment to the Jersey Shore.

Camden County sent trucks and a crew to Longport to help with moving sand and other cleanup. The county sent two mobile radio repeaters - equipment that allows first responders to access a state Office of Emergency Management channel - to Monmouth County.

Monmouth's eight police departments and other emergency personnel have been operating without full communications capabilities since the storm.

"All counties are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy together," said Camden Freeholder Ian Leonard.

Sunday morning, a caravan of seven to 10 vehicles packed with supplies was to leave the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross headquarters, bound for New York City.

SEPTA convoy

Also on Sunday, a convoy of 30 SEPTA buses is set to leave Conshohocken at 10 a.m., headed for New Brunswick, N.J. There, Suburban Transit drivers will take over, shuttling passengers into New York City.

The reduction in SEPTA's fleet is not expected to affect passengers here, officials said in a news release.

Pennsylvania continued to deal with lingering problems. Trees were still splayed across lawns and driveways.

With temperatures dropping and power outages continuing in Southeastern Pennsylvania, fire companies in Lower Merion Township and Narberth, as well as the Narberth Ambulance Main Station, opened their doors Saturday to people who needed "warming stations."

People were invited to charge electrical devices, grab coffee or other light snacks, and get out of the cold.

Officials said they may be reopened Sunday, when temperatures are forecast to be lower, depending on demand.

Otherwise, residents without power were heading for restaurants and other businesses to warm up.

Oxford Valley Mall saw an increase in visitors, even though "we aren't doing anything in particular," said Jim Malervy, director of marketing. "We have electricity and places to charge cellphones for people, as well as a food court serving hot food."

At 5 p.m. Saturday, Peco reported that power had been restored to nearly 95 percent of customers affected by the storm. About 30,000 in Bucks County and 15,000 in Montgomery County remained without power.

Mark Morano, 36, a Yardley resident with a spouse and two dogs at home, said Saturday night he did not understand why areas of Bucks County were still in the dark.

"We have been sticking around every day believing there was a kernel of hope that the power would come on," he said. "It seems like a very late response for the power to come on, given that, relatively speaking, we are not living in a hard-hit area. With everything that is happening at the Shore, things are getting overlooked here a bit."

Peco said crews expect power to be restored to most by Sunday night.

For others, especially in Seaside Heights, the wait to return home will go on at least a little - and maybe a lot - longer.

"We are hopeful to have some plan and schedule for allowing people over by the end of next week," officials posted on the town website Saturday. "Take care, and we will keep you posted."


How to Get Aid

To obtain disaster assistance

for losses sustained from Hurricane Sandy, you can:

Call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

at 1-800-621-3362

Get information or apply online at: www.DisasterAssistance.gov

Or apply on your smartphone at m.fema.gov

When applying for aid, have the following information available:

Social Security number, private insurance information, address and zip code of damaged property, directions to damaged property, a telephone number where you can be reached,

an address where you can get mail, bank account type, and account number and routing number if you want disaster assistance funds sent directly to your bank. - Suzette Parmley


Contact Sandy Bauers

at 215-854-5147, sbauers@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sbauers. Read her blog, GreenSpace, at www.philly.com/greenspace

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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