Hurricane Sandy left her calling card at many different communities on Oct. 29 and 30, and Hopatcong was among those she hit the hardest. Nearly two weeks after the storm, many residents were still waiting for power to be restored and fallen trees to be removed from their property. And while several said they understood that the storm had done a vast amount of damage, patience was beginning to wear thin for many.
No one was more aware of that lack of patience than Reggie Greene, an employee of Donovan Construction of Minnesota, one of the many crews from various states that came to New Jersey to help restore power after the storm. With two weeks away from his wife and two young children already under his belt, Greene said he didn’t know when he and his crew would be going home.
“We’ll be here until the last light bulb is turned on,” Greene said.
He said that most people have been understanding of the circumstances, and have welcomed the presence of him and his crew. But others, he said, need to learn patience.
“Some of the drivers really need to learn to slow down, because with the way they drive, they are slowing us down,” Greene said. “People need to understand we’re here to help them, not just to be in the way. We’re working 16 hour shifts trying to get all the power turned back on.”
With the lack of power, generators were the hottest items throughout Hopatcong during the storm, with gas to power them running a close second.
A week into the power outage, the Dorwart family received a generator from Fernanda Dorwart’s employer, Price Waterhouse Coopers in Florham Park. Until then, Fernanda, who is more than eight months pregnant, along with her husband and son, both named Grant, lived in a dark cold house on Byram Cove.
“We could have gotten out, but we really had no place to go,” Grant Dorwart said. “My dad lives up the street and my sister lives in Byram, but they didn’t have power either. And Fernanda had doctor appointments, so we couldn’t really go far.”
Once they got the generator, though, the Dorwarts couldn’t find the kit necessary to hook it up properly, so they had it wired into their furnace.
“We were able to hook up the refrigerator, the furnace, and the DVD player so Grant could watch some videos,” he said.
The Dorwarts went to the shelter at Hopatcong High School to take showers, and stayed with Grant’s sister when she had hot water. Other than that, they played cards, took rides to Pennsylvania to get gas, and cooked what was left in their refrigerator with a propane stove and a gas grill.
“It was frustrating at first, but we did find that everything was readily available,” Grant Dorwart said. “I could get water after a couple of days.”
But both parents were proud of their son, Grant, who is two years old.
“He was a real trooper,” Fernanda said. “I took him to the play place at McDonald’s a few times. He handled it very well.”
Bill Levick and his fiancé, Claudia Sorbara, were still waiting for their power to come back as of this writing. They “roughed it” for nine days, they said, until they went to stay with Sorbara’s sister when she got power back.
While they were in the house, their neighbor across the street let them hook into his generator and wired it to their boiler so they could have heat.
“We had an extension cord going across the street,” Sorbara said. “But then when the snow was coming, we had to unhook it all because of the plows coming through.”
Levick was hesitant to use his neighbor’s power at first because, “I didn’t think this would last as long as it has,” he said.
Once they realized it was going to be a while before power came back, they started to get practical.
“We cooked on the gas grill in the garage, and used LED lights so we could see,” Levick said. “And at least for part of the time we had heat.”
In another part of town, Bob Trentalange’s home had a very large tree fall on the roof of its sun porch. While the roof was crushed, Trentalange said he was able to save the furnishings inside, and is completely confident that the room can be restored.
“This home predates the 1900s, and I’ve owned it for 40 years,” he said. “It’s very solid. I’ve already had people out here to look at fixing the roof, and as soon as the tree is removed, they are ready to go.”
However, removing the trees is no easy task, according to Steve Smathers from AA Tree Service in North Carolina. The company has been contracted by Tree Service Direct to do post-storm tree removal work in New Jersey.
“We’ve been here for 10 days, and we’ll be here for a long time yet,” Smathers said. “We work six hours a day, and just the tree on this (Trentalange’s) property will take us two days to remove.”
According to JCP&L’s outage map, as of Sunday night, 1,222 customers in Hopatcong were still without power. Power was expected to be restored by Sunday night.
Fernanda Dorwart and her son, Grant.
Bob Trentalange stands in front of his house that now has a tree laying across the roof.