Although all regions within FirstEnergy suffered from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, operating utility JCP&L was at the center of the crosshairs of the storm. Similar to conditions the operating utility experienced during Hurricane Irene, JCP&L took a direct hit from the Oct. 29-30 storm, inflicting unprecedented damage across the service territory. Sandy affected virtually every one of JCP&L's 1.1 million customers. Overall, JCP&L experienced more than 1.2 million interruptions as many customers experienced multiple service outages.
JCP&L had returned service to 90% of affected customers before the Nov. 7 nor'easter dumped more than 1 ft (0.3 m) of heavy, wet snow on parts of central New Jersey, causing an additional 130,000 outages. Power was restored to all JCP&L customers who could receive service by the Nov. 10-11 weekend.
FirstEnergy's company meteorologists forecasted early on that JCP&L would be the hardest-hit service territory, prompting the decision to prestage 1,400 line personnel in New Jersey prior to the storm's arrival. This included 425 JCP&L linemen, additional FirstEnergy personnel from sister operating utilities, contractor crews and mutual-aid assistance crews along with 1,200 forestry workers.
The utility also took action ahead of the storm to help minimize the storm's expected impact. Waterways near substations in New Jersey were inspected and debris that could be driven into equipment in the event of flooding was removed. Crews also placed sandbags around substations most susceptible to flooding.
Once Hurricane Sandy made landfall, crews throughout the service area had to wait until whipping winds died down so bucket trucks could operate safely. Downed trees and branches made many roads impassable. To get a handle on the damage, JCP&L had helicopter crews patrol and assess storm damage to power lines.
Forestry crews worked to remove debris so linemen could access trouble spots to make the necessary repairs. Crews responded first to hazardous situations and high-priority damage locations, including the transmission and substation facilities that supply power to local distribution systems.
Among the hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy were the long, slender barrier islands that protect New Jersey's coastline. Before Sandy struck land, JCP&L proactively shut down power to customers on the islands in Monmouth and Ocean counties, which were one mandatory evacuation order, to protect public safety. The utility de-energized substations serving the islands remotely, before high tide, to protect equipment and speed restoration efforts once the storm had passed. Local officials and law enforcement were notified in advance and helped to coordinate the timing.
To restore power to JCP&L's 1.2 million customers, a total of 13,800 line workers, hazard responders, forestry workers, call center representatives, management and support personnel participated in the storm response. To handle the logistics, JCP&L set up nine staging areas to house and supply the influx of crews from states as far away as California and Oregon.
The sheer volume of materials required for the rebuild was massive. JCP&L replaced 6,700 utility poles and 19,200 crossarms damaged by the storm. In addition, 3,600 transformers were replaced and more than 400 miles (644 km) of overhead conductor wire were installed.
While the restoration effort from Hurricane Sandy was massive and completed in a timely fashion, the work is not yet done. FirstEnergy and the industry as a whole will continue to review storm practices to see what enhancements can be made.