Hackettstown Was 'Lucky,' Weathered Storm Well
Mayor reflects on what worked and what could be improved during times of chaos.
Hackettstown wasn’t immune to the super storm’s impact, either, and went without school for a week and electricity, for some, even longer.
But amidst the chaos and confusion was strong communication from the town to its residents, according to Mayor Maria DiGiovanni.
“I thought the communication between the town and our residents was really good,” DiGiovanni said, reflecting on the aftermath of damaging hurricane. “[Hackettstown Police] Sgt. Darren Tynan did a great job with NIXLE, press releases, the Facebook page. I think this was a positive for us.”
It wasn’t just the elected officials and town employees that offered help, either, DiGiovanni said. It was the community and residents that banded together to help one another.
When the town’s first option of a shelter, Hackettstown High School, was inaccessible to residents because of downed trees and lack of electricity, Trinity United Methodist Church on Main Street opened right away, allowing residents a warm place to sleep during the cold nights.
In addition to Trinity, St. James Church was used as a warming center and shower facility as well. The Hackettstown Municipal Building was also opened as a warming center and place for residents to charge their electronic devices.
Almost the entire town’s power was restored by Thursday, Nov. 8, which fit into Jersey Central Power & Light’s forecast of seven to 10 days without power.
While some towns had difficulty communicating with the utility provider, DiGiovanni said she was more fortunate that others.
“When I would call my JCP&L representative or send an email to them, I usually received a pretty prompt response,” she said. “Hearing what happened in other towns, I know I was one of the lucky ones.”
Just because the communications were swift didn’t always mean they was accurate, however.
DiGiovanni said her representative at JCP&L would send over a restoration grid that would change frequently, which created a moving target of sorts.
“Having the information always changing was challenging,” the mayor said. “The information was sketchy, and not reliable. It wasn’t a good source of communication.”
Preparation, Not Panic
With any natural disaster comes an area for improvement and lessons learned, and Hackettstown certainly wasn’t immune to that, either.
The storm was so astronomical, DiGiovanni said, that lack of preparation could have severely hindered recovery efforts, and she urged residents to be ready if anything like Sandy came through again.
“You don’t want to create panic for residents when a storm is coming,” DiGiovanni said, “but residents need to be prepared for situations like this. We live in a heavily wooded area and outages can last a long time. Residents need to be proactive before a storm.”
Despite widespread destruction and extended inconveniences, Hackettstown weathered the storm seamlessly, and is even better prepared for next time.
Hopefully, though, there won’t be a next time.