Emergency workers were asking residents in both Basking Ridge and Bernardsville to stay away from downed trees, broken utility poles and other remnants from a major windstorm brought overnight by Sandy. Officials said they believed virtually everyone in both communities were without power.
However, no injuries were reported in either town as a result of the storm, although the Basking Ridge Fire Co. had to rescue residents from their bed when a tree crashed through the roof into their bedrooms, said Assistant Chief Nick Ierubino. That home was on Allen Street in northern Basking Ridge, said Bernards Police Lt. Mike Shimsky, also the township's coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management.
"There was all kinds of chaos last night," Shimsky said on Tuesday morning.
Bernards and Somerset Hills schools reportedly closed on Wednesday
"Nothing open at this time —we’ll see what tomorrow brings," Shimsky said shortly before 2 p.m. At that time, he said the township had heard nothing from JCP&L.
However, Shimsky said he had been notified that schools were to be closed in Bernards Township on Wednesday as well.
Bernards Board of Education president Susan McGowan confirmed at about 3 p.m. Tuesday that schools would be closed on Wednesday, but said she had no other information at that time.
On Tuesday afternoon, Bernardsville police also confirmed that the Somerset Hills School district will remain closed on Wednesday.
A tree also had crashed into the side of a home at Somerset Hills Village off Childs Road in Bernardsville. Irene Segal, one of the complex's residents, said those homes were cut off by downed trees. "No one can get in or out by car," she said.
Bernardsville Library open as shelter
The Bernardsville Library at 1 Anderson Hill Road is open as a shelter with a generator, cots and foot, said Borough Police Sgt. Jim Smith. But all public buildings, except for those with generators, appeared to be closed and without power on Monday morning.
Bernards Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano said that she and Bernards Township Police Chief Brian Bobowicz had surveyed the damage. Finley Avenue was blocked by large trees from up into Bernardsville into downtown Basking Ridge. South Maple Avenue also was blocked by a large tree.
Gaziano said the township's Department of Public Works had been out as soon as the storm allowed to where possible move large trees that block roadways. She said the only traffic light that was working in town was along Mount Airy Road by Interchange 26 of Route 287.
But she said that live wires were hindering those efforts.
Township Committeeman John Carpenter agreed, although he said that along with the DPW, the town's volunteer firefighters had been out helping to clear roads of debris where live wires weren't involved.
Carpenter said he is expecting power outages in the area will last "days and days."
JCP&L "assessing damage"
As of 3 p.m. Gaziano said the township only had heard that Jersey Central Power & Light was assessing the damage in the area. However, she said township officials had scheduled a phone conference with Jersey Central Power & Light Co. as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
But even before the the call, Carpenter said he wasn't expecting "a whole lot of information" on specifics.
As with other observers, Carpenter said he hadn't seen businesses open on Tuesday, other than at the Dunkin Donuts in Stirling, where he said that day-old donuts were for sale.
Although people were out with cameras and just taking a look, officials asked that they stay away from hazards, and not to drive unless absolutely necessary.
Access to Route 287 was possible for cars on Mount Airy Road and at interchange 30 for Bernardsville and northern Basking Road. But local streets were shut in many locations and others were partially blocked by trees.
Volunteer emergency responders actively involved in efforts to deal with Sandy aftermath
Ierubino said he wanted to thank the many firefighters and first aid volunteers who pitched in and were available for overnight response in Basking Ridge.
He said about 25 had been involved at some point overnight — until the winds became too rough — and that the firefighters had prevented fires from burning transformers in homes and on streets.