Thousands of South Jersey residents who lost power during severe weather might not get it back until next weekend, according to utility officials.
Storms struck the area early Saturday with heavy rain, dangerous lightning and strong winds with gusts of more than 70 mph.
Atlantic and Cumberland counties were hit hardest in New Jersey by the storm, which forecasters say was caused by a rare weather phenomenon known as a derecho: a fast-moving line of severe winds associated with a squall of violent thunderstorms.
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Many residents in Galloway Township said they were caught off guard by the storms and are frustrated with the county's response.
"I am just kind of disturbed that nobody has been here to check on us. We were out here when the storm hit until now and the first township crew came by when you all came by," Bill Willams told NBC10's Cydney Long.
About 24 people took refuge in at the Galloway Township Middle School shelter on Sunday until he and his family are alerted that they can safely return home.
States of emergency remained in effect in Atlantic County and in several municipalities.
A curfew went into effect at 9 p.m. Sunday. It will remain in effect until 6 a.m. Monday morning for all Atlantic County municipalities with the exception of Atlantic City.
Citing the devastation caused by the storms, officials warned that some customers may not have electrical service back until late Friday. The priority was being given to hospitals, fire stations, water filtration plants and police stations.
At the storm's peak, about 206,000 customers lost power. That was down to about 103,000 on Monday afternoon.
Here's the current numbers (as of Monday night)
Power Outages (per Atlantic City Electric)
|County||Customers Without Power|
Power Outages (per Delmarva)
|County||Customers Without Power|
Vineland, a town with its own power company -- Vineland Municipal Electric Untility, reported that about 5,000 customers are still without power. Over the weekend, 18,000 of the 25,000 Vineland customers lost power. WMEU's director of electric utilities Joe Isabella said they hope to have all power restored by July 4.
Gov. Chris Christie, who toured the area Saturday, asked residents to be patient amid the tough conditions. He also assigned the National Guard to deliver fuel for generators and water.
Residents also were being urged to stay away from all downed wires, even if they don't appear to be active, and to not disrupt utility crews.
Officials said that the damage was more severe than what Tropical Storm Irene wreaked last summer.
The storm was blamed for the deaths of two boys, ages 2 and 7, in Salem County. They were camping at Parvin State Park in Pittsgrove with their families when a pine tree fell on their tent. The boys suffered serious injuries and died shortly afterward, authorities said. They were identified only as being from Millville and from Franklin Township.
The cleanup continued on Monday in Vineland as crews tried to find the electric lines feeding the most people and fix those first. The fact that power lines at individual homes have been severed has made this task more difficult.
Eric Cooper’s family is relying on a generator after the electrical line was pulled off the side of their house. The generator is just barely keeping their fridge cold.
“We’ve been blessed because people have been stopping by giving us water and trying to help us out,” said Cooper.
“I had to stay up at Runnemede,” said Paul Peterson, who claimed it was too hot to stay inside his house one more night. “They didn’t have any motels around here that were open so I ended up going to Runnemede to get one.”
The Vineland Ramada has been booked with utility crews and refugees of the storm.
“We were flooded with guests,” said John Scipione. “There were down wires sparking on the roads. People just drove off the road and ran in for shelter.”
“It was just this big roar and it was the scariest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Joyce Conners, of Linwood.
Enzo Paludi of FJP Tree Service brought his tree clean up team from Huntingdon Valley in Montgomery County to help Atlantic County residents.
“This is probably one of the worst storms I’ve seen,” said Paludi. “You’ve got monster trees, 20 inch, 30 inch diameter trees lying on top of people’s houses. You’ve got a lot of mess and it’s going to take a lot of time to clean this up and do it right.”
Clearing trees from houses can be dangerous because the branches on a tree on its side are like springs and can snap when cut. Trees are power lines are just as dangerous. Utility crews came from as far as Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and Texas to help out.
Neighboring Camden County is pitching in to help Atlantic County. Around 400 vehicles drove to an ice and water station in Mays Landing to receive a 40 pound bag of ice as well as a 40-count pack of water.
“Our guys are wiped out totally from the massive operation that’s going on,” said Bill Melfi of the Atlantic County Emergency Management. “We’ve staged electric company crews from all over the area plus there’s going to be power out for days. So this is the little bit of relief we can give to some people.”
To make matters worse, a truck carrying water coming from North Jersey on the Garden State Parkway overturned
“The fire companies responding to that incident are in the process of transporting that water to Atlantic County to get it on a truck and get it to us right away. So everybody in this county is participating.”
The station will be open from 8 am. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
Residents in Pittsgrove, Salem County are also dealing with downed trees.
"I have 22 trees down," said Keith Myers. "It's going to take me probably a year to clean up the property."
Neighbor Steven Richards says it's going to cost him between $15,000 and $18,000 to remove the fallen trees from his yard.
"I called my insurance company and they said they would give me $500. I don't have that kind of money. And I don't understand why this isn't a disaster area."
- Atlantic City Public Schools Closed - Summer School; Custodial, maintenance, grounds and security to report to work at normal hours on Monday, July 2.
- Atlantic County Emergency Hotline - (866) 704-4636
- Vineland, NJ Emergency Operations Center (856-691-4540)
- Alder Avenue Middle School in Egg Harbor Twp., opening at noon
- Brigantine Community Center - 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
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