The dire problems that have caused many township residents to be stranded in their cold, dark homes for more than a week began with an infrastructure crisis so pervasive that one municipal veteran is claiming that he's never seen anything like it in 25 years on the job.
Wyckoff's Department of Public Works Chief Scott Fisher told residents at a public meeting Monday night that his men have been working non-stop with utility crews from around the country since Hurricane Sandy devastated the electrical infrastructure here, yet complete destruction around Bergen County caused expansive delays.
"I thought I'd seen it all last year," Fisher said, referring to the snow storm last October. "[But] this time was a whole different event."
"[The utility companies] have 27 transmission lines that run through this area, they lost all 27 of them [this year,]" Fisher said. "They lost one transmission line last October — one."
A substation in Allendale was 100 percent devastated, Fisher said, so crews had to "start from scratch and then work their way out."
"It's unfortunate, Wyckoff is the end of the line," Fisher said. "They had to rebuild Allendale and then work their way to us."
Initially, as electrical crews addressed the out-of-town substations, DPW crews responded aggressively to initial reports of trees and branches down after Sandy first hit. Workers were limited, however, to removing debris that wasn't entangled with fallen wires.
"My guys worked a 9-hour shift on Sunday," Fisher said. "I've been here for 25 years — we've never worked on a Sunday."
Now that substations and transmission lines are being brought back online, DPW workers and PSE&G and Rockland crews are working in tandem to bring entire neighborhoods back on the grid.
By Tuesday, the Wyckoff Public Library, YMCA, Eisenhower and Lincoln Schools, Weymouth Drive, Cedar Hill Plaza, Cedar Hill Condos, and parts of Russell Avenue were back up.
Fisher urged residents to focus their dissatisfaction not with the workers on the ground.
"Orange and Rockland and [PSE&G] at the uppers may be really screwed up, but the guys that are working in town are here for us," Fisher said, adding that over the past week he's worked with men from California, Oregon, Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.
"Respect the guys on the ground — they're risking their lives and they're here to help us," Fisher said.
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