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Sandy's Impact a 'Tree Issue,' Official Says

Township asks residents to stay off roads, remain patient.

Strong wind gusts and light rain began to fall around 8 a.m. Monday, the start of what many are expecting to be a historic storm.

So stay off the roads and just sit tight–that’s the urging coming from Washington Township Police and Office of Emergency Management officials as Hurricane Sandy’s wind and rain approach the region.

“We’re just asking people to stay put for now,” said Lt. Doug Compton. “It will help (the police) and Department of Public Works tremendously.”

While Sandy continues to barrel toward the tri-state area, closing all Washington Township municipal offices, schools and the library, the township is preparing to keep residents updated and assisted as much as necessary.

Police have a full patrol staff working Monday and Monday night, and will call in additional officers if necessary, Compton said.

The Department of Public Works is operating under the premise of a heavy snowstorm, when crews alternate day and night to keep roads clear, according to Superintendent Scott Frech.

If necessary, the first warming shelter to be opened is the Senior Center at Rock Spring Park. The Washington Township Library was going to act as a backup, but it has been closed. The Office of Emergency Management says to have at least 48 hours of supplies available in your home.

Compton pointed to flood-prone areas specifically for motorists to avoid, including the intersection of Bartley and Naughright Roads, the center of Long Valley–where massive flooding overtook the roadway during Hurricane Irene–and East Avenue in the Hackettstown portion of the township.

Deciphering Damage

While utility provider Jersey Central Power & Light put together an intense tree and branch-cutting program over the past six months in response to 2011’s lengthy power outages, Frech said only time will tell its impact.

“I see (the storm) as more of a wind and tree issue,” Frech said, referring to the potential of downed trees and power lines. “JCP&L has been working like crazy to make it better, but right now we just can’t tell what may happen.”

JCP&L is holding its stance given to township officials over the weekend for residents to expect 7 to 10 days of outages. The company has brought crews in from out of state, which are currently located in staging areas, preparing to begin work when needed.

As for the flood prone areas Compton referred to, Frech says a couple of variables may make the situation less dangerous.

“It seems like everyone took the Governor’s advice and began lowering dams,” Frech said. “The South Branch of the Raritan is lower in the center of town and it’s lower over in Califon. The more room the better.”

Frech also said forecasters Monday morning are calling for 4 to 6 inches of rain Monday morning through Tuesday night, a marked difference from the original 8 inches or more forecasted over the weekend.

Determination of school closings for Tuesday, along with postponing Halloween hours are expected to be made by mid-morning Monday, Compton said.

For full coverage on Hurricane Sandy, visit Long Valley Patch’s topics page here.

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