With nearly 50,000 Jersey Central Power & Light Co. customers still without power after two nor'easters that hit the region over the last 10 days, Gov. Murphy scolded the electric provider Saturday afternoon, calling its response to the winter storms "embarrassing."
"As I have said throughout the week, JCP&L's preparation for and response to the past week's weather events is completely unacceptable," Murphy said in a statement. "I will not accept any of the company's excuses for why thousands of New Jerseyans continue to be without power."
Murphy added that he would use "all the authority at my disposal to get power restored." The governor offered no details about what he planned — or was able — to do to help. A representative for Murphy could not be reached for further comment.
Murphy's criticism comes just days after he called for an investigation by the state's Board of Public Utilities to look into how the state's electric companies responded to the winter storms.
Serving 1.1 million customers in central and northern New Jersey — including parts of Burlington County — JCP&L is the second-largest power company in the Garden State, trailing only Public Service Electric & Gas, which serves much of the South Jersey area. In a statement Saturday morning, JCP&L said it was "on track" to restore service by late Saturday evening to the majority of the 3,400 customers who remain without power from the first storm March 2.
As for the 41,000 customers affected by the March 7 storm, JCP&L said it expects to restore power by late Monday. The company said it has deployed nearly 6,000 people to do so.
"The damage to our system has been substantial, with more than 600 broken poles and more than 1,700 spans of wire needing to be replaced," Jim Fakult, president of JCP&L, said in a statement. A JCP&L representative was not immediately available to comment on the governor's remarks.
With both storms bringing severe gusts of wind, rain, and snow, JCP&L was not the only electric company to face an onslaught of power outages. In the South Jersey area, PSE&G said in a tweet at 8 a.m. Saturday that it was still working to restore power to the 13,000 customers who remain affected from Wednesday's storm. To assist, the company said it called in crews from as far as Indiana.
In Pennsylvania, Peco tweeted on Thursday that it expects to restore power to affected customers by Sunday. There have been no public updates since. Peco's outage map on Saturday afternoon still showed hundreds of customers without power, with a larger concentration in the Bucks County area.
As for Murphy in New Jersey, the two March storms presented a test of sorts for the new governor. Before the region's most recent storm Wednesday, the Democratic governor declared a state of emergency, and was largely visible, according to nj.com, throughout the state as the storm hit. However, Murphy received sharp criticism from Republican state lawmakers earlier in the week for not declaring a state of emergency before March 2's violent storm.
Declaring a state of emergency can help authorities better deploy resources amid disasters. It also allows states to quality for federal funds that can be used for recovery.
Looking ahead, computer models are confident that yet another coastal storm could take shape Sunday into Monday. The National Weather Service in Mount Holly sees a 10 percent chance of a 6-inch snowfall in Philadelphia and, according to nj.com, gusty winds could cause flooding along the South Jersey coast. However, the forecast remains uncertain.