Correction appended 11:30 pm Oct. 31
PSEG officials Wednesday afternoon said restoring power to most customers without eletricity, including in Essex and Bergen counties, may take anywhere from 7 to 10 days -- until next Friday at the latest -- while a few isolated pockets may take even longer than that.
“We continue to make significant progress,” said Ralph LaRossa,* the president of PSEG, said during a 5 pm conference call with reporters. “Our latest estimate is that we had 1.7 million customers affected but that’s now down to 900,000."
“Lights are coming on as we speak,” he added, noting that there are still “7,000 primary damage locations” throughout the company’s service area.
Crews from utility companies as far away as Texas and Illinois have been called in to assist in the historic repair effort. “Offers of help” have come in from the state and federal government as well as power company CEOs across the country, LaRossa said.
Estimates of the number of affected customers have fluctuated over the last few hours as additional information has come in, he said. In Essex County, LaRossa now estimates that 100,000 were still without power as of Wednesday evening, while power has been restored to 150,000 customers.
In Bergen County, which was hardest hit due to the damage caused by falling trees, 170,000 were without power Wednesday, down from a peak of 235,000.
Compounding the hardship in the wake of the epic storm has been a shortage of gasoline. Even in areas with power, service stations have still run out of fuel because power has not yet been restored to refineries.
LaRossa declined to give specific estimates regarding when the refineries may come back on line because the issue of fuel availability could affect commodities trading markets. He did say, however, that getting power back to the refineries is a top priority.
"We're focused on the refineries...It's at the very top of our list," he said.
He also said crews may attempt to restore power to individual gas stations along major highways, like Rt. 17 in Bergen County.
While additional storm-related outages have largely ceased, LaRossa also said that power may be intentionally shut off briefly in small areas where a downed pole or other circumstance requires crews to come in and make repairs. PSEG will try and notify affected customers beforehand, he said.
*LaRossa's name was originally misspelled.