Schools in Bloomfield will be closed for the remainder of the week, with 41 percent of town still without electricity in wake of Hurricane Sandy, officials said Wednesday.
While power to pockets of town have slowly been restored, efforts have been hindered by coordination between tree-removal services and PSE&G crews, which must give clearance before branches near power lines are tampered with. Restoration of most power could take as many as seven days, officials said.
Twenty-seven homes in town have trees on top of them, according to Fred Menzel, coordinator of Bloomfield's Office of Emergency Management. Three of them were deemed uninhabitable following an inspection by the building department. More than 50 trees are reported down around town.
Menzel said Department of Public Works has hired a crane to lift trees from homes, but "this cannot be done until (PSE&G) kills the wire or the electricity going into these houses, because if the crane hits one of these wires, someone gets electricuted."
The problem has been trying to coordinate between PSE&G and the crane service to get power cut and trees removed.
PSE&G officials Wednesday night.
Priority has been placed on restoring power to Bloomfield's senior citizen building Kinder Tower on Hoover Avenue, as well as the schools. Four of 11 schools are without electricity and a few only have partial power.
Many roadways in Bloomfield have been cleared, except for Bay Avenue near Mountainside Hospital and Bloomfield Avenue at Willard Avenue, which has a fallen telephone pole blocking the right lane.
With Election Day Tuesday, township officials have already begun looking for additional polling places, should power not be restored to schools in time.
"This was probably the most devastating storm we've ever seen," said Mayor Raymond McCarthy of Hurricane Sandy.
The OEM center and Bloomfield police have answered as many as 700 non-emergency calls since Monday, officials said. Residents can continue to call 973-680-4177 with questions or to report downed power lines when the center reopens Thursday morning.
Police said there have been no reports of price gouging at gas stations, which have been slammed with drivers in need of gasoline. Police Chief Chris Goul said a fight erupted Wednesday at the Valero gas station on Bloomfield Avenue, near State Street Diner, but did not elaborate.
Officials said because Bloomfield was one of the remaining towns that had power at its gas stations, an influx of drivers from nearby towns had come in to fill up. Many stations Wednesday evening appeared to be out of gas and the few that were open had dozens of cars waiting on line.
Garbage and recycling pickup has been suspended for the rest of this week, with the mayor urging residents to drop off paper, recycling and leaves in biodegradable bags to the DPW on Grove Street. DPW will be open Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.
McCarthy said Wednesday it was too early to put a price tag on damages and repairs in wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Park United Methodist Church (12 Park St.) has opened its doors to Bloomfield families in need of shelter. The church, which will provide one meal a day, has six private family rooms and can house up to 100 people. The church can also provide transportation. Call 973-680-4017 for more information.
With dipping temperatures, McCarthy also advised residents to seek shelter at Codey Arena in West Orange, the designated county shelter.
Bloomfield High School's football game against Seton Hall Prep schedule for this Friday has been rescheduled for Nov. 9.
Halloween, which was also canceled for Wednesday, will be rescheduled at a later date, though Gov. Chris Christie has suggested towns hold trick-or-treating Monday.