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
My sandy heroes are my siblings and nephews and niece. My mom lives in point pleasant beach and got 4 feet of water, thank god she evacuated. When my sister and brother and niece and nephew were finally allowed back in they couldn’t believe what they saw. My dad had just passed away in February 2012 and a retired chief lineman with pse&g, when they started cleaning up they saw this blinking light behind the wall unit. They couldn’t imagine what it was since no power. When they reached behind the wall unit they pulled up the toy bucket truck with the pse&g logo flashing its lights. Those batteries have not been replaced in years. That was dad telling us he was there and probably bailing water since mom lives in a split level and water came about an inch of going onto main floor.
So my heroes are my family who spent countless hours ripping out Sheetrock and carpets so no mold formed…and of course my dad
Thank you for sharing your story, Elaine. We are lucky to have had your father as a part of our PSE&G family for 40 years.
Superstorm Sandy brought out the best in a lot of people. We had recently moved into our home when the storm hit. I remember my neighbors taking us in, sharing their generators, food, and just being very kind and welcoming. I’m fortunate, I have amazing neighbors.
All the new infrastructure is only as good as the weakest shade tree. There needs to be a massive shade tree removal effort in NJ. The shade trees in a typical Northern NJ neighborhood useful life has expired. Age, neglect and years of line clearance pruning have transformed shade trees from an asset to now a liability. The existing mature shade trees should be removed and replaced with strategically located understory trees that will not grow higher than the lowest overhead line. I would like to think that this would be a lesson learned from the previous storms as well.