When Hurricane Irene caused major power outages throughout Monmouth County last year, local officials were quick to criticize power conglomerate Jersey Central Power and Light for its failure to communicate with area municipalities and act quickly enough to restore electricity.
What followed was a JCP&L apology tour of sorts. Company executives hit the road, appearing at council meetings and town halls to take a punishment most felt was well deserved. Humbled by a storm that arrived on shore with only a fraction of its expected intensity, JCP&L promised to do better next time.
In Shrewsbury, the lights are still out.
Route 35, the town's central artery, is black at night, its traffic lights still dimmed and its bordering businesses all waiting for power to be restored. Mayor Donald Burden was among those leaders who challenged JCP&L's response during Irene. But, with Shrewsbury still dark five days after Hurricane Sandy's arrival on the New Jersey shore, Burden can't find anything bad to say about JCP&L.
"There's been a big difference compared to last year," Burden said of JCP&L's response. "They've been much better. I think they listed to a lot of the complaints last year and have done better."
Though downed power lines sit unattended in many borough neighborhoods and JCP&L can only be spotted as its trucks speed down Route 35 to destinations unknown, Burden said the power company has been communicative and upfront about its efforts following Sandy.
For one thing, he said, company execs host a conference call every day at 4 p.m. to alert mayors in affected towns to what is being done. Also, importantly, they've been honest in their explanations of what's going on and what kind of work is being done in New Jersey. Right now, Burden said, JCP&L is just not in a position to tell most towns when they can expect the lights to come back on.
"We need to be a little empathetic and sympathetic to our neighbors right now," he said, talking about coastal towns that recieved the brunt of Sandy's force.
Soon after Sandy hit, with outages rising rapidly throughout Monmouth County, JCP&L said customers could expect power to return in seven to 10 days. Several days later, JCP&L amended that time table to include time frames as long as two weeks. Two weeks from the time of the new announcement, that is.
Most customers should see a return to service by Wednesday, Nov. 7.
In Shrewsbury, roughly 1,855 customers are without power. And with Sandy having caused widespread devastation to coastal towns, it's likely crews have been trying to repair severely damage infrastructure up and down the Jersey Shore, leaving most to wait.
Still, Burden said he's proud of the way the town has handled its adversity. The department of public works and fire department have done exemplary jobs responding to calls, clearing roads of downed branches and trees and keeping residents safe. Then there are the residents, Burden said, who have taken to looking after each other following Sandy.
"All things considered," he said. "I think Shrewsbury is faring very well."