The following information comes from Fourth Ward Councilmen Keith Loughlin and James Foerst:
As Day Four comes to a close and we enter the weekend, I want to share the most up-to-date information that we have.
Our Mayor and Council are meeting or receiving updates several times a day from local, county and state officials and from representatives from our public utilities.
SAFETY - Safety should be the top priority for us all. As power begins to return to the grid, wires that have appeared dormant for days may suddenly come to life. Continue to treat all downed wires with extreme caution and assume that they are live. If you see a wire that becomes a hazard, please immediately call 911. Under no circumstance should a private citizen take it upon himself or herself to "assist" the town by cutting trees from roadways and off power lines. Leave this work to the professionals - they will arrive and begin local restoration efforts when the grid is re-energized. Those looking to help the town should take their downed limbs to the conservation center which is open every day to all westfield residents from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Continue to check on the elderly and infirmed. The cold temperatures will begin to take a toll on everyone. Stay vigilant and positive as we continue to work through this catastrophe.
TAXES - The November 5th grace period for 4th Quarter taxes has been extended by two days to November 7th, after which time interest and penalties will begin to accrue. The tax collector will maintain regular office hours next week.
Election Day - Tuesday November 6th - elections will proceed as planned and Westfield intends to have all regular polling places open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. as scheduled. The County Clerk's office on North Avenue is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. everyday from now until Election Day to allow for early voting which is available to all registered voters on demand.
Charging Stations - Westfield Memorial Library is open for a respite, Internet access and phone charging as is Congressman Lance's office on North Ave. There is also a 24-hour charging station at the County facility on North Avenue.
POWER - There are still 73 streets in town closed. These streets will remain closed until PSEG clears the lines. Crews can then begin to clear the trees from the streets and lines and the power can be restored house by house as needed.
Many homes were restored either last night or today. It is currently guesstimated that approximately half of Westfield currently has power. Large areas on both sides of town were restored last night and this morning and we will continue to see power restoration around town as the transmission stations and substations begin to power back up. By tomorrow morning, our transmission stations and substations will be back online but that does not mean immediate power restoration. The varying circuits that were damaged will need to be fixed and replaced to actually allow power to flow to neighborhoods. PSEG continues to estimate that most will remain powerless through the weekend with mass restoration of the remainder of Westfield occurring early next week and local service to effected individual homes quickly thereafter. PSEG currently has crews working in town. Mayor Skibitsky and members of the Town Council have advocated vigorously on our behalf. We have received aid from crews as far as Missouri. We are told that Westfield was one of the hardest hit in our area.
For those interested in numbers, at the height of the outage we had approximately 9,000 homes (90%) without power. Yesterday we were down to 6,700 without power and today we are approximately at half. We have 73 homes that sustained tree damage, 10 of which have been condemned. We are unsure of the number of garages that have been impacted but that number will likely bring the structures damaged to more than 100. We have 50 poles that have been damaged and dozens of transformers non-operational. Nine of our 11 schools remain without power, as does Town Hall and DPW, which are operating on back-up power sources. Downtown Westfield is without power but many stores are open for business during daylight hours. Make it a point to get downtown this weekend and support our merchants.
GASOLINE - Lines continue to be long and most can anticipate a 60+ minute wait. The fuel sources are back online and as the demand eases, so will the lines. There appears to be sufficient fuel for all those in need and most agree that "it's worth the wait." Stations on Central Avenue and in neighboring towns are operational. We are advised that there is plenty of fuel at this point but that the demand is extremely high, which is causing the delay. We are assured that everyone that needs fuel will be able to get it.
Westfield is scheduled to receive deliveries tomorrow at all operational gas stations. Also, request has been made for FEMA to provide generators to those stations still without power to ease the burden on those currently operational hopefully reducing wait times.
Emergency fueling stations have been positioned around the state for EMS vehicles and personnel, medical professionals and essential utility service vehicles. The public safety and efforts to restore power will continue to be the top priority of State and local government. The state website has the locations and qualifications of those eligible for this preference.
This has been a long week for us all. Thank you to our police, fire and DPW workers for being away from their families and working around the clock to protect and restore our town.
We will send another update tomorrow or sooner as information becomes available.
James M. Foerst and Keith Loughlin
Westfield Town Council - 4th Ward