Nine days after Hurricane Sandy caused havoc, the street looked almost like it did after the storm. Wires dangled in front of houses and driveways, yellow caution tape blew in the wind, and orange cones and barriers dotted the pavement, warning drivers of various hazards.
Except for the occasional candle or light bulb powered by a generator, the dozen or so houses on the street were still dark and cold inside. As the snow began to fall Wednesday night, some residents grimaced and prepared to call friends again to ask if they could stay with them for yet another night.
One of two pairs of octogenarians on the block had already been relocated to warmer quarters, and the other pair – the wife just out of the hospital before the storm – was able to stay at home with the help of neighbors and relatives.
“First I lost my kidney, then I lost my power,” said Maureen Darrow, 86, who was bundled up in layers topped off with a thick wool sweater.
Darrow had kidney surgery and was sent home Oct. 28, one day before Hurricane Sandy hit. She and her husband Mort Darrow, who has a tremor disorder in his hands, spent the next six days huddled under a pile of quilts.
“It’s like a Russian movie,” said Mort Darrow, 86.
“At least we’re used to cuddling up together after 65 years of marriage,” he said as he squeezed his wife’s hand.
The Darrows are thankful for the neighbors who check in on them regularly and help with the tasks they can’t do. Maureen Darrow’s step brother loaned them a small generator that is heating a downstairs room. One neighbor is filling the generator with gasoline every few hours, and another extended a power cord leading from his generator through a kitchen window to power the couple’s refrigerator and a light.
“The only thing keeping my spirits up is the fact that Obma won the presidential election,” Maureen Darrow said. “A neighbor knocked on our door to tell us in the morning. We didn’t know the results until then.”
Half a dozen children live on the block. The previous week they and their parents spend their days at the Princeton Public Library or other places where they could stay warm and busy, waiting out the situation.
“My wife Dawn sleeps in her long down coat now,” said Hickory Court resident Robert Hebditch. “We have friends we could stay with, but you don’t want to put people out. Tonight we’re going to have to stay with someone though, because it’s just too cold with this storm.”
At first the pace of power restoration in Princeton seemed to be moving along quickly, and residents hoped that their power would soon be restored, so they stayed put. When the original estimated power restoration date set by PSE&G came and went, they began to get frustrated. Like several hundred other residents in the greater Princeton area, they felt like they had been forgotten.
“The power companies are like the airlines,” Mort Darrow joked. “They lie like a rug.”
Calls to PSE&G didn’t make area residents feel more confident. Residents of several streets still without power called the power company only to find that PSE&G’s records showed that their power had been restored, when in fact it had not.
“It’s the not knowing when the power is coming back that is making everyone crazy,” said Hickory Court resident Diane Paulsell. “No one will tell us anything.”
Repeated calls to the power company have resulted in little new information, and trying to get a repair schedule from PSE&G has been impossible in Princeton, though West Windsor officials were able to get one today for their town. Residents understand the magnitude of the storm and the difficult job PSE&G has had, but still say the company’s communication with customers who are still without power has been poor. Carol Meier, a resident of Hickory Court who is a lawyer, was so frustrated with the situation and concerned about her elderly neighbors that she wrote a letter to PSE&G yesterday citing health concerns regarding her elderly neighbors and safety concerns regarding downed wires and poles.
The company said yesterday that power would be restored to Princeton residents by Friday, but the snow storm Thursday set back that schedule. Now officials are saying the power company estimates that all power will be restored to Princeton customers by Saturday.
“While as of this writing, the majority of the town has received power, we are not backing down in our communication with PSE&G to get power to those that still are without,” wrote Princeton Township officials in an email update to residents today. “We share our residents’ frustration as we have tried to get specific areas in which PSE&G projects a longer duration for power restoration so that residents can be notified so that they can make alternative plans and we can also better direct our resources.
“To date, PSE&G has not provided us with this information because they stated that due to the significant amount of hurricane damage throughout the state, they do not have the resources to dedicate to provide this information to each and every town,” the email read. “PSE&G is working hard, however, we also know that our residents that do not have power are very upset, cold and frustrated. We will continue to push.”
As of this morning, residents on at least 35 Princeton Borough and Princeton Township streets were still without power. In some cases a few homes on streets were without power, in other cases the whole block was still off the grid, including Lambert Drive, where The American Boychoir School, a boarding school for boys, is based.
Residents on Hickory Court were dismayed to wake or return home after the snow storm this morning to find that they were still without power. Some PSE&G crews arrived around noon, checked out the situation and took care of some wires, but then told residentsthey would have to return to figure out where the gas lines are before they can begin major repair work.
The residents were told their power will probably be restored tomorrow. They hope that this time that the estimate is true.