Power problems could last days across NJ after Isaias wreaks havoc

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New Jersey continues to clean up from Isaias
Derick Waller reports as many remain in the dark from the tropical storm.

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- There are still more than 300,000 power customers in the dark in New Jersey on Friday. The vast majority are in North Jersey, which especially problematic during the pandemic when so many people are working from home.

PSE&G says power has been restored to 80% of customers, but some of those that remain could persist for days.

The National Weather Service confirmed that two tornadoes touched down Tuesday - in Cape May County and in Ship Bottom on Long Beach island in Ocean County.

NJ Transit's Morris & Essex and Gladstone Branch remains suspended Friday as crews continue to repair extensive damage to signal systems and overhead wires, which power the trains. Once personnel clear the area and restore the wires, the infrastructure will have to undergo inspections before service can resume.

The rest of the railroad's service has been restored and is operating on a weekend schedule Friday.

Some residents in Englewood are prepared to wait almost a week before getting power restored, but Gov. Phil Murphy is urging patience.

"The legacy of this storm is going to be power outages at the storm's height roughly 1.4 million households without power," Murphy said.

Woodbridge had a substation go down during the storm. Power from that substation covers a wide area of the town where utility poles are snapped and wires were left dangling.

Mayor John McCormac said there were still 4,500 homes without power and there were nearly a dozen traffic lights out.

Toni Yates has more on the damage from Isaias in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

PSE&G told its customers in Bergen County that they should have power back by Monday - and neighbors say they are patiently waiting.

"We have a generator that keeps the refrigerator going, I wish my air conditioner could run on that but it doesn't, so we're just doing the best we can," said Westwood resident Laurie Lazzaro.

In Fort Lee, a massive tree crushed the roof of a home. The home is now structurally unsafe to live in, but the homeowner isn't even thinking about repairs.

He's thinking instead of joining the mass exodus and fleeing for a different part of the country.

"I use this as the motivation that I needed to perhaps look for someplace that's more welcoming, that I can see better use of my taxes," a Fort Lee resident said.

Back on Wednesday afternoon there were still precarious power lines down in Westwood and River Vale where a 60-year-old man moving a branch on his property may have come into contact with one.

He was found dead late Wednesday morning and his death is being investigated as a possible electrocution.

PSE&G said that's why it is so important to avoid touching any downed power line - even if it is in an area that lost power.

"It's an assumption many people have that if they're without power and they see their line, falling down and their house must be dead," PSE&G spokeswoman Rebecca Mazzarella said. "That's so far from the truth. You need to believe that everyone on the ground is live and don't ever go near it."

Sonia Rincon reports on the storm damage in New Jersey.

Utilities like PSE&G put out the call for help ahead of the storm.

A spokeswoman for the company said 1,700 workers came to help from 15 different states, as well as 200 tree cutters who were very busy Wednesday.

As Mother Nature calls for more searing heat, officials are asking for patience and calm - because with no power comes no air conditioning, no lights, and wasted food.

OEM said DPW, police, and all who are responding to the needs after the storm are getting to it all as fast as they can.

Several other people were killed as Isaias made its way along the East Coast.

Two people died when Isaias spun off a tornado that struck a North Carolina mobile home park. Another person died in Pennsylvania when their vehicle was overtaken by water and swept downstream. The 5-year-old girl had gone missing from her Philadelphia-area home during the height of the storm Tuesday and was found dead Wednesday. Authorities said they believed she was swept away by floodwaters in the creek behind her house.

Three others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland, Connecticut and New York City, and another person died in Delaware when a tree branch fell on them, authorities said. A woman was found dead inside a New Hampshire house Tuesday evening.

Isaias sustained top winds of up to 65 mph (105 kph) more than 18 hours after coming ashore, but it was down to 40 mph max winds as of early Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Possible tornadoes and torrential rains were reported across New Jersey as Tropical Storm Isaias roared to the north, leaving behind power outages and flooded streets.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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