On Monday night, roughly 1,700 households lost power in a swath of central Maplewood, according to PSE&G. The outage, which lasted for roughly 90 minutes, was caused by a tree that fell onto a power line on Springfield Avenue and took out parts of a circuit.
It was the third such outage since Superstorm Sandy, according to a PSE&G representative, and some residents are frustrated.
"There's clearly an issue, but PSE&G is telling its customers nothing," said Adam Nichols, an Oakland Road resident.
Monday's outage was from trees making contact with power lines, said Everton Scott, senior public affairs manager at PSE&G. "We are required to trim (trees) every four years," said Scott, but since Sandy the utility has been discussing whether to accelerate that maintenance cycle. The previous outage, on Nov. 13, was also from a circuit problem.
PSE&G's staff forester regularly checks for trees that might pose a danger to wires and will alert homeowners to those that might pose a problem, said Scott. Homeowners concerned about a tree can ask PSE&G to evaluate it. Sandy has weakened many trees, making them more vulnerable to breakage.
Scott said that PSE&G works with local Departments of Public Works (DPW) to recommend when trees should be trimmed or removed. (PSE&G cannot remove any tree on private property without permission from the homeowner.)
He said since Maplewood has some power lines running through backyards, it makes it particularly challenging to work on power problems.
At Tuesday night's Maplewood Township Committee meeting, Mayor Vic DeLuca said he was going to try to get PSE&G to be "more responsive and proactive." He said the recent outages were "not a good pattern."
"We have a fair number of outages, more than I'm comfortable with," said DeLuca in a phone interview.
He will meet with PSE&G representatives at upcoming meetings sponsored by the League of Municipalities and the West Essex Chambers of Commerce. "I'm going to really keep pushing them," he said.
Scott said PSE&G responds "immediately" to outages and fixes them as quickly as possible.
"The most important thing homeowners can do is to pick up the phone and call us," he said. "The more (people) that call, the better" so that the utility can pinpoint where the problem is and respond more quickly.
That number is: 1-800-436-7734.
But that is cold comfort to some homeowners, like John R. Willis of Sommer Avenue, who said he was on hold with customer service for twenty minutes at shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday.
"The added stress of having sump pumps to worry about makes a power outage a big deal," said Frank Venderosa, who lives near Elmwood Avenue, in a post on Maplewood Patch's Facebook page. "I have a generator - but who wants to hear THAT noise at midnight?"
"It is way beyond a nuisance since my spouse needs to sleep with an (sic) cpap machine," wrote Laura Davis, another Facebook poster. "I can not imagine how our seniors citizens at Winchester Garden cope. Trying to call again in the dark... not priceless."