About 1.4 million New Jerseyans were left powerless after Tropical Storm Isaias exploded in the Garden State on Tuesday.
Electric utilities and government Phil Murphy have warned it could take days for some parts of New Jersey to restore electricity. PSE&G, the state’s biggest utility, described Isaias as “among the strongest storms to hit our service territory in recent years.”
Now, people who need to plug in their phones, laptops and other devices will have to get creative.
First and foremost, anyone in a life-threatening situation because their power is out or their medical equipment has failed should call 911 immediately for help, said Jeffery Pompper, deputy coordinator Salem County Emergency Management.
People who are not in an emergency but still need juice can typically go to a public facility such as a library to charge a fee. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those options may not be readily available, according to Laura Connolly, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. She added that people can still call 211, the state community’s resource helpline.
“People can still call 211 if they still need the resources,” Connolly said. “If they’re unhealthy, if they have medical problems, something like that.”
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The opening of cooling centers and other emergency response facilities is being driven largely at a local level after Isaiah, so people should check with local officials about the availability of such options.
In Monroe Township (Middlesex County) for example, the local senior center is open Tuesday evenings for people who need to charge critical medical devices.
Elsewhere in Middlesex County, New Brunswick has opened Lord Stirling School as a cooling center for powerless residents. That cooling center will be open at least until Friday and possibly on weekends, depending on the city. It is unclear whether charging zones are available.
The Old Bridge is using the George Bush Center in the city’s municipal complex as a cooling and charging center on Wednesday. Residents entering the center need a mask and will have their own temperature.
Metuchen has opened two charging stations, one at the Metuchen Library and one at Edgar Middle School, for residents to use while following social breakout guidelines. Wifi is available in these centers.
Meanwhile, Trenton opened a shelter Wednesday morning at Joyce Kilmer Elementary School for residents who need air conditioning, electricity and food. The city said beds will also be available in the shelter, and that COVID-19 precautions will be taken to reduce the risk of the disease spreading. The city will provide shelter transportation for residents in need who call 609-989-3801.
In Morris County, Mendham Township has announced that it has opened an emergency charging station for residents at Fireside Brookside. That station will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday in the neighborhood of Mendham Borough opened a charging station at the Garabrant Center.
Next door, Morris Township will open charging stations on Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the City of Woodland Fire Company and Fairchild Fire Company.
Chester Township was in the process of setting up a tent outside the city community barn to charge people for electronics and get drinking water, tweeted Chester Councilor Mike Inganamort.
Montville Township will open a charging station at 8:30 am on Wednesday outside of the Montville Nursing Home. Showers are also available at the family facility, but appointments should be made by calling ahead.
Madison Borough has a cooling and charge center open Wednesday through 4:30 p.m.
A cooling and charging center is open Wednesday with limited capacity at Pequannock Township at the local nursing home. Masks and social distance are required.
Randolph Township has opened its community center as a charging station as well.
And in Roxbury Township, the local library has set up two charging stations for residents. One is in the front gazebo, and the other is in the back entrance.
The Hunterdon County main library and the Northern County library are open, with computer access for people seeking an internet connection, according to county spokeswoman Ruthi Cass. She added that libraries are operating at 25% capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, surface coating is required and that computer time is limited to one hour per day.
Elsewhere in Hunterdon, Cass said the Raritan Township municipal building is open to residents who need internet and payment, as is the Milford Public Library. Hunterdon County residents can also call the Hunterdon Helpline on 908-782-4357 for help.
Hillsborough and Warren Township, both in Somerset County, have opened charging and cooling stations for residents. Hillsborough station is located in the city’s municipal building, according to a Patch report, while Warren Township station is located in the local police building.
Marlboro, in Monmouth County, has opened the city’s recreation center for cooling and charging, with COVID-19 precautions in place.
Elsewhere in Monmouth County, Highlands has opened a cooling and charging center at Sung Harbor Community Center, while Ocean Township has opened a similar station at the West Park Amusement Center. Aberdeen Township has set up two facilities – at the Sigismondi Community Center and the Hausmann Center for the Elderly – but both are only open on request, according to information provided by a county spokesman.
Neptune has opened three such centers: One at the local library, one at the city marina and another at the city’s senior center.
And Colts Neck has opened cooling and charging centers at the town hall, the local library and the city’s two fire stations.
In Union County, Summit has set up a charging station for residents in the East Broad Street parking lot, according to city spokeswoman Amy Cairns. That station will be available from 8:30 am to 9 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
In Bergen County, the Hackensack county administration building was formerly a cooling center, but had lost power during the storm, a county spokesman said. But the county was in the process of setting up ice and water distribution sites in the Paramus, said County Executive James Tedesco.
In Cape May County, some local emergency shelters could be opened if the area’s power outages are prolonged, county spokeswoman Diane Wieland said. She added that if the shelters are opened, protocols will be put in place to protect the public against COVID-19.
Atlantic County bookstores will open on Wednesday, county spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said. That includes the branch library at May Landing, which has a dedicated charging station.
In Hudson County, some local businesses are opening their doors to the powerless. Local brewery soles lost on Instagram posted a spot on the site and operated extension cords for those who needed to charge their devices or use electricity to work remotely.
To help those in need of drinking water and to keep it cool, the energy company Jersey Central Power & Light has set up water and ice distribution sites throughout the state. PSE&G also said they will be setting up stations where customers can get free water and ice; the utility said it will note the locations and times for those stations on its Facebook and Twitter pages.
Where local facilities are not an option, rationing the power of your equipment during a power outage is critical. Be sure to lengthen your device screens as much as possible, and run only one program at a time to preserve battery life. Keep your phone in low power mode.
External chargers are a lifesaver for such situations. But if you don’t have one of those, and you’re dealing with an extended power outage, you may have to sacrifice your laptop to charge your phone.
In desperate situations people who still need electricity can try to charge their mobile phone in their cars without the engine running. This will work even if you are out of gas. Just remember that when you return to normal, your car battery may be quite drained and you may need a jump to restart the engine.
This story was updated at 3.55 pm
NJ Advance Media staff reporters Nick Devlin, Rebecca Panico and Kelly Heyboer contributed to this report.
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Michael Sol Warren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.