As the village completes the fourth day of the 2011 October snowstorm, many residents are trying to keep warm in blankets, wondering when the lights will return and what Public Service and village officials are doing.
Power has been restored to the vast majority of the village by Tuesday night, and RHS was juiced at around 7:00 p.m. With the .
Resident Tim Graham, who said he was understanding the extent of damage makes it difficult for responders, expressed issue with communication from local officials. He was just one of many.
"What's frustrating is the sense of detachment you get from Village Hall over the situation," Graham said Tuesday night. "They don't seem to be taking ownership of this."
Councilman Paul Aronsohn agreed communication between 131 N. Maple and residents has been spotty.
"Our first responders have been working around the clock and have been doing an outstanding job. This was a particularly dangerous storm, but our public safety folks proved that they were equal to the task," Aronsohn said.
"That said, there clearly could have been more and better communication coming out of Village Hall. For the first 48 hours, there was no reverse 911 call, no email to residents and no use of the portable police sign. That's unacceptable."
Safety issues, lack of response
In one of the worst-hit areas of Ridgewood, residents say safety issues are even more pronounced.
"If Fire or EMS needed to get down my block, they would not be able," said resident Mitchell Kaplan, of Gateway Road. Kaplan added there are also no markings indicating the closure or dangers.
"It's very disappointing Gateway Road is still not passable," he said Tuesday afternoon, adding he too understood the village has been extraordinarily busy. "PSE&G has been fabulous," Kaplan said, "But the town has been nowhere to be seen."
Kaplan said Village Manager Ken Gabbert told him by e-mail crews would be there to work on Tuesday afternoon. Though appreciative Gabbert responded quickly, Kaplan reported Tuesday night that workers never showed.
When will trees, branches be cleared?
"Tree-wise, it could be worse than Hurricane Irene," Village Engineer Chris Rutishauser said of the storm Tuesday afternoon. He said the best comparison to "Snowtober" would be the March 2010 storm, which similarly shut power down for days as tree branches dotted the landscape.
Once the powerlines are de-energized and deemed safe by the utility, tree crews will clear roads of downed trees and limbs, according to Rutishauser. Most expect PSE&G to have fixed outages by Thursday. The top engineer could not provide a timetable as to when the major branch cleanup would occur.
"It's very difficult to say," he remarked, adding there have been nearly 300 wire and tree problems reported as of Tuesday afternoon. "We've got a lot of work to do and it could be weeks until we get everything cleared up."
Further east, Marshall Street was again beaten by the weather though basements were dry in the lowland street. "It looks like a Tolkien war zone," said resident Shaun Goellner. "All you hear up and down the street is the rumble of generators."
Without power, Goellner has been snuggling up in a fleece with several blankets. "We've gotten no response from PSE&G or the village," he said.
No information better than 'misinformation'?
The village continues to work through issues, Mayor Keith Killion said, adding the early weather reports didn't match what ensued on Saturday and Sunday.
"The village is putting up whatever information we have [on the website]. Misinformation is worse than no information," the mayor told Patch. "People want instant communication these days but you have to get the right message. And that takes a bit of time."
The village has tweeted developments and posted refuse changes on the website. Additionally, reverse 911 calls were sent out but they came on Monday afternoon, which many residents said wasn't terribly helpful with phone lines down and power out.
"We're not getting any more information from public service than the residents are," the mayor said. "The village has scrambled and mobilized best it could."
Councilman: We need to review what went right, what went wrong
Kevin Shea, a resident in the Willard section, suggested a change in locale for technology.
"If Ridgewood has its website hosted on a server in Ridgewood, they should really move it so it can be used as a communication platform in the future," Shea suggested to Patch. The village website was down for several hours on Monday.
Aronsohn said the village needs to seriously analyze how it responds to disaster situations and how it gets the message out. "We need to review what went right and what went wrong, and then we need to fix it," he said.
"We need to do better."
Village Manager Ken Gabbert did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.