It’s hard to forget where I was or what I was doing on October 29, 2012. I was in PSE&G’s underground emergency response center in Newark, my eyes glued to the television monitors as a storm named Sandy swept up the coast. Along with my colleagues, I remember watching in disbelief the news coverage of the water in New York Harbor and at the Battery rising up and up throughout the day. We knew the storm was going to be bad – really bad. But the level of this wall of water, and the destruction it could cause, was shocking.
At 8 o’clock, when Sandy made landfall, we lost 400,000 customers. Within 12 hours, more than three-quarters of our 2.2 million electric customers were in the dark. In my 33 years at PSE&G, I’d weathered 70-plus major storms, including Hurricane Irene, and the October nor’easter in 2011. But Sandy was the game-changer.
Usually with storms the wind is our enemy — and we were seeing 100 mph gusts. But Sandy wasn’t just knocking down trees and poles. The unprecedented storm surge flooded for the first time many of our critical switching and substations, some taking on six to eight feet of water. The Passaic River was literally flowing through our Essex switching facility.
As soon as the storm passed, we began taking stock of the damage and determining how to get the most customers back online as quickly and safely as possible. With 110 electric stations damaged, 1,500 miles of transmission lines interrupted, and thousands of trees, poles and wires down, this was a gargantuan task.
Our employees went to work. For many that meant leaving their own families without power in damaged homes. They came to work every day and night, working long shifts to get the lights back on for their customers. The efforts of our men and women were nothing less than heroic, but not surprising. Our employees have a long tradition of pulling together in times to help our customers. We are proud to be known as “Public Service.”
Today, under our $1.22 billion Energy Strong program, we are strengthening and protecting our electric and gas systems against severe storms like Sandy — raising substations, replacing gas pipes, increasing redundancy and deploying smart grid technologies. This work is taking place in 54 towns across our service territory. When this work is completed in the next few years, we’ll be able to better weather any future storm.
Sandy was the game changer. But with our work to strengthen and protect our electric and gas systems, we’re now ahead of the game.
For more information on PSE&G’s response to Superstorm Sandy:
After the storm I met a lot of Sandy heroes: firemen, police officers, rescue workers, linemen who traveled thousands of miles to help, and ordinary people going above and beyond to help their neighbors in need. Do you have a Sandy hero? Please comment below and share your story.
John Latka, Senior Vice President Electric & Gas Operations – PSE&G