Slow, but sure: that's the statement PSEG wants customers without power to know about how they're gradually restoring service throughout their New Jersey energy territory.
There are 690,000 still without electrical service in the four days since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Garden State. "That's too big a number from our point of view," said Ralph LaRosa, PSEG chief operating officer who was on a media call to provide updates as to how the utility is progressing.
Their areas of focus, LaRosa said, include restoring service to the four refineries in the northern part of the state. "We want to free up the bottleneck so gasoline can flow," he said.
Electrical service was restored to ConocoPhillips and another refinery, which should eventually start shipments of gasoline to relieve gas lines around the state. The Colonial Pipeline in the Avenel section of Woodbridge and another in Bayonne are still without service, LaRosa said.
In Middlesex County, there are 78,500 people still without power. About 10 percent of Woodbridge Township customers - 9,200 in round numbers - are still waiting for their service to be restored, according to the utility company.
In Edison, 13,000 customers have no electrical service, while 5,000 New Brunswick residents are without power.
Power coming on in parts of Woodbridge is an indication that distribution circuits need work, but it's also "a good example" of what customers can expect to see as electric service starts to come back, LaRosa said.
He wouldn't give specifics about when the township would have full restoration of service. Some Woodbridge customers have their service from the substation in the Sewaren section of the township which was inundated by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge. But not all Woodbridge residents have their electricity from that substation, he said.
"If we were to give a global estimate restoration time, it'd be next Friday," LaRosa said. "We're unable to go town by town."
Not making any promises
None of the PSEG officials were making any promises about when power would be restored, but if there's a silver lining, it would be that some of the flooded out substations have been energized, such as one in Bayonne.
The northern part of New Jersey experienced the worst conditions for power restoration because of felled trees and downed power lines. Those issues make it impossible for utility workers to safely get to areas that need their help.
In Hoboken, which still has standing water in the streets, "we can't put a human life at risk," LaRosa said.
Bergen and Passaic counties have been hardest hit, said Ralph Izzo, PSEG chairman. They are focusing on working with municipal and county officials to clear up roadways and give the utility company workers access to equipment. The installation of lower voltage equipment in Hudson and Essex counties should "bring back" service to customers in those areas later today, Izzo said.
LaRosa was also anxious to "dispel myths," such as one that PSEG had turned away utility workers from Alabama who had driven to New Jersey to help, because they were non-union employees.
"It's not true," LaRosa said. "It's misinformation. We aren't turning people away."