Christie Pushes Utility Companies to Restore Power
Governor says schools should be open on days set aside for teachers convention.
Gov. Chris Christie said thousands of added workers from across the country are set to arrive in New Jersey, after he pressed utility companies to speed up repairs.
Christie said he told chief executives of the state's largest utilities they must take extraordinary steps to step up restoration efforts.
"I made it clear to them that whatever playbooks they had were to be thrown out because we've never faced anything like this before," the governor said.
Governors from Ohio to Virginia dispatched repair crews to aid storm-ravaged New Jersey, Christie said at a briefing in Moonachie Thursday afternoon.
President Barack Obama offered to fly utility crews and equipment to the state on military aircraft, Christie said. Federal emergency management officials were also establishing housing for the workers at Fort Monmouth.
"You're going to see the results of that because the power will be restored much more quickly than it would have been otherwise because of these new people," Christie said.
Public Service Electric and Gas, the state's largest utility, said in a statement Thursday that full service might not be restored for a week or 10 days. No new timeline was immediately released.
Christie said he would make electric companies provide updated estimates once crews were tallied.
More than 1.7 New Jersey electric customers remained without service four days after Hurricane Sandy slammed the state. That number was down from 2.7 million without power. In Bergen County, Teaneck, Hackensck and Fort Lee were some of the towns hardest hit by outages.
Gasoline and diesel fuel were also bound for New Jersey, but set aside for government and vehicles involved with the relief effort, including utility crews.
Christie also commended the state's teachers union for canceling its annual conference in Atlantic City. The event was scheduled for Nov. 8-9, days when school is normally closed.
With the conference canceled, Christie said schools should open.
"I understand that the teachers convention and those two days off is a statutory entitlement that was given to the teachers union but I think these are extraordinary circumstances," the governor said.
"I would hope they would do it voluntarily and I'm confident they will, but I would not hesitate to do what needed to be done to help our children get the education they need," he said of teachers working during the scheduled convention days off.
Concerns over voting are mounting as some polling places have been washed away or remain without electricity.
Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno said she directed county clerks to keep offices open over the weekend and extended the mail-in ballot deadline. Clerks were set to report by tomorrow which of the state's 3,000 polling places were unusable and temporary voting areas would be setup using military trucks.
Officials would work to get people staying in shelters mail-in ballots, Guadagno said.
Bergen County was added to the President's major disaster area declaration on Thursday, Rep. Bill Pascrell announced. Christie asked residents seeking federal assistance to call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.
"Our job has moved now from saving lives to rebuilding them," the governor said. "We must move together to return New Jersey to normalcy."