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Safety Precautions Urged As Power Returns for More in Bernards

As a cold night approaches, it's suggested that those without heat seek shelter elsewhere.

Even with Jersey Central Power & Light at work in the township, the count for households without power remained at 4,650 at about noon on Thursday, as officials suggested that those still in the cold consider seeking shelter elsewhere on a night when the National Weather Service says temperatures will dip into the 20s.

Despite continuing outages, power was going on for more as the day and evening continued, with restoration near Lyons Road, and more residents along South Finley, including reportedly due to get power between 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday.

Representatives from the Basking Ridge Fire Co. and First Aid Squad also urged residents to replace batteries on malfunctioning carbon monoxide detectors, since answering false alarms has further strained volunteer members, some of whom are themselves still living without power.

Some calls legitimate

But Nick Ierubino, assistant fire chief for the Basking Ridge company, said that carbon monoxide detectors should be kept in good working order, whether the batteries or entire detector needs to be replaced. Some of the calls have been legitimate, especially since he said that improperly installed generators or people turning on ovens to generate heat can create carbon monoxide build-ups.

"CO events are very serious," Ierubino said at a late Thursday morning meeting of officials and emergency responders that included N.J. Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-District 21). He noted that the detectors themselves should be replaced after five years.

People hoarding gasoline in containers in garages was noted as another possible fire hazard.

Jon Bentley, captain of the Basking Ridge First Aid Squad, said that there have been a number of what might have been minor incidents, such as people tripping, that in the dark have turned into more serious incidents that required some trips to the hospital.

"It's all compounding," Bentley said at the meeting. "People are on the edge and beyond right now."

He said there are steps in the right direction, such as the many organizations that are offering places to warm up, charge up or even have a hot meal. "A warm shower and a good meal are not just a matter of convenience right now," Bentley said.

He suggested for those who chose to stay home on Thursday night that they add a sleeping bag, which is better designed to retain heat, on top of layers of blankets.

There are a number of places where people can spend the night, including a shelter set up by the Red Cross and Bernardsville volunteers at Bernards High School.

Other than at hotels or with family or friends, Bernards Township Health Director Lucy Forgione said that overnight accommodations also are available at the Sisters of Christian Charity facility at 350 Bernardsville Road in Mendham Borough and at the Fellowship Deaconry, at 3575 Liberty Corner Road, at 908-647-1777, or online.

Officials said that neighbors checking on neighbors is the first line of defense.

Township Committeeman John Malay noted that some elderly residents are reluctant to leave their homes, and that the township has been depending also on organizations such as churches to check on elderly members.

He said the longer the power outages persist, the greater the risk that elderly residents will suffer in the cold.

"Find the elderly people on your street," Township Committeeman John Carpenter suggested.

Shortly before 4 p.m., report of power being returned to near Lyons and Goltra Roads

Township police said shortly before 4 p.m. that power should be back on shortly for those residents by Lyons Road near Goltra Road, as per JCP&L information. Those without power near Lyons may lose power for about a half-hour while they fix it, the report said.

Pockets of outages throughout the town

Although power had been restored to another 2,000 households or so from later Tuesday through Wednesday, there still are major areas of the township without power, including many of the streets off Mount Airy Road, about 700 homes around Kensington Road, and the area around the Oak Street Elementary School, one of three of the township schools still without power. A Haas Road resident reported that street also is without power.

Ridge High School and the Cedar Hill Elementary School still have no power, and schools are closed for the week, with a target of re-opening next Monday on a delayed opening schedule. School officials already have said that spring break will be eliminated and other scheduled days off may be taken off the school calendar.

The township municipal building had been running on a generator powered by propane, and propane is now too difficult to get, said Township Administrator Bruce McArthur.

The tax office and other municipal operations are relocated to the police headquarters next door at 1 Collyer Lane, since that generator is running on diesel fuel, officials said.

There still are major road closures in the area due to downed power lines not yet removed. Major closed roads include South Maple Avenue near Mount Airy Road north of Pill Hill Road and East Oak Avenue into Bernardsville and even a section of South Finley near the Collyer Lane intersection.

Police Capt. Ed Byrnes said one vehicle had gotten entangled in wires while being driven at night, and was damaged when the driver attempted to back up.

Seeking authorization to move wires

As one of his many approaches to speeding the restoration and cleanup after Sandy, Bramnick said he has been investigating a procedure that would allow officials to decide when to move wires under emergency circumstances.

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