Ridgewood's only operating overnight shelter lost power and remained dark for more than eight hours before it finally reopened Sunday night, displacing those already seeking shelter.
PSE&G cut the power to the circuit Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church is on at 10:45 a.m. to make other repairs in the neighborhood.
"It just went out all of the sudden," Rev. Ron Rozniak said Sunday night.
With more than 5,500 households without power in Ridgewood, hundreds of villagers have used the Passaic St. facility for hot meals, internet access and a place to lay their heads. Seven slept over on Saturday night and more expected to sleep over on Sunday.
According to Rozniak, the utility was aware that shutting off power to the circuit – which runs roughly along Ackerman and Broad St. to the Glen Rock border – would be problematic for Mount Carmel.
"I'm surprised they took so long," he told Patch Sunday night. "When they said it would take an hour to work on, it took more than seven hours. And we told them, we even called PSE&G and said this was a warming center and an overnight shelter."
Rozniak said OLMC volunteers even told the workers stationed at nearby lines that Mount Carmel was an important site without power. With the cold setting in, the decision was made to close the doors at 7 p.m.
"It's just disappointing we had to tell people they couldn't stay," Rozniak said.
Mount Carmel re-opened at about 8:30 p.m. when the power was finally restored.
Although some of the food will certainly have to be thrown away, volunteers will be feeding and housing residents all night and on Monday. It will be fully staffed.
The church took down the names of people who expressed interest in returning if power came back on quickly, but they had not yet heard from them as of 9:30 p.m.
Mayor Paul Aronsohn was pleased to hear the power had returned but expressed disappointment with the lack of communication from a utility he's sharply criticized in recent days.
"It was wrong for PSEG to cut the power of Mount Carmel and many others without any advance notice and without any consideration for its impact," Aronsohn told Patch Sunday night. "I understand that such drastic measures are sometimes necessary, but this could've and should've been handled better."
A spokesman for PSE&G said he could not address specifics of the notification process between the utility and municipal officials prior to circuits being shut down for repairs.