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UPDATE: Power Restored in Wildwoods Using Temporary Systems

Atlantic City Electric crews work to restore power at the utility's electric plant substation on Lake Avenue in Wildwood at about 11:30 a.m. July 8.
Collin Hall/File Photo

Atlantic City Electric crews work to restore power at the utility’s electric plant substation on Lake Avenue in Wildwood at about 11:30 a.m. July 8.

By Christopher South

WILDWOOD – The power is back on in the Wildwoods, but that is only due to the use of temporary equipment brought in to restore electrical service to the 24,000 customers who lost power, Friday afternoon.  

The Wildwoods lost power July 7 at around 12:26 p.m., just in time for the weekend, as a result of a fire at the power substation at Lake Avenue. Power was fully restored at 4:24 a.m., July 9, with occasional interruptions to some customers as workers rerouted connections.  

According to Frank Tedesco, a spokesperson with Pepco Holdings, the parent company of Atlantic City Electric (ACE), it was a very complicated repair after the fire. One person speaking with the Herald said he heard the fire began in a control room.  

This was an extremely complex restoration, as we worked to bring back service for every customer impacted by this event. We have installed a significant amount of temporary equipment, including large generators and equipment from out of state, across the entire island that is being utilized to provide service at this time,” Tedesco said.   

He said crews had to temporarily build multiple connections between the equipment at the substation that was not damaged and could still be used and the devices that deliver electricity along the street to customers.  

Tedesco said ACE and its parent company were closely monitoring the energy demands of the customers in the Wildwoods to keep up with the service needs and the capabilities of the temporary equipment. He said they are also keeping an eye on the outside temperatures in consideration of crews that have to deal with the heat. 

We are working on more permanent solutions to help keep our customers powered,” Tedesco said.  

This has been a monumental effort by our employees, with support from area contractors, he added. 

Early on, ACE was unable to give customers any estimated time of restoration until late Friday, July 7. By about 5 p.m., about 900 customers had power restored, Wildwood Crest Mayor Don Cabrera told the Herald at the time.  

Cabrera said, during a call with the Herald, July 7, that ACE engineers and administrative personnel met at the substation site, along with subcontractors, to work out a plan for restoration. He said he visited the site, which he described as relatively new, and was keeping in touch with his Office of Emergency Management. He said he was trying to relay accurate information, as some of the information coming from ACE wasn’t accurate regarding restoration estimates 

“As of 5:20 p.m., engineers and repair teams were on site conferencing. Some less affected customers are restored, and the rest are in a holding pattern. When they will all be restored, they don’t know,” Cabrera said July 7. 

More Communication Would Have Been Better 

Ultimately, service was restored to the Wildwoods using the temporary equipment, for which many were thankful; however, some wouldve liked to have seen more communication between ACE and the customers, particularly those who run businesses. 

“Obviously, there was a lack of communication between the electric company and business owner,” said Bob Sahasaylo, executive director of the Greater Wildwood Hotel and Motel Association. 

Sahasaylo said for businesses with stairwells, it was pitch dark and an extreme safety hazard with no lighting. He said a lot of hotels and motels had to ask people to leave because they couldn’t guarantee their safety, let alone comfort 

“Elevators were not working…there was a lot of lost revenue for business owners but what can you do,” Sahasaylo said.  

Sahasaylo said restaurants were some of the hardest hit by the power outage. He said many of them were unable to get generators or mobile refrigeration units as suppliers sold out.  

“Unless they prepurchase done for the weekend,” he said. 

According to Sahasaylo, one restaurant lost $40,000 in seafood. He said many of the restaurant owners are insured, but they would still experience some kind of loss, including deductibles and lost revenue.  

On the other hand, Sahasaylo said during the power outage there were restaurants that had cooling capability helping neighboring restaurants that were without. In addition, Sahasaylo said once the power was restored, businesses went back to normal very quickly.  

He also feels a lot of the visitors to the Wildwoods understood what happened. He said he heard some people were just trying to make the best of it, cooling off in the pools and ocean. He said if anyone wanted a refund on their stay, the hotel owners obliged 

“For those who stayed, it just caused them to put down their devices, because they couldn’t recharge them, and maybe to look up at the sky and appreciate nature a little more,” Sahasaylo said.   

During the Outage 

During the power outage, police in the Wildwoods had to deal with traffic lights not working all over the island. Comments on social media highlighted the fact that people have forgotten how to react when they come to an intersection with nonworking traffic signals. Police around the island were urging drivers to use caution.  

ACE said there were crews at the substation that were looking for opportunities to reroute the power and restore service to customers.  

“Unfortunately, we do not have an estimated time for restoration for customers,” said Candice Womer, ACE senior communications specialist, Friday afternoon, July 7. 

Womer said power was out in all of the Wildwoods, including Anglesea.  

As the day went on, some people on social media were reporting sporadic restoration of power.  

Lower Township Manager Mike Laffey, July 7,noted the township heard from hotels in Diamond Beach saying they had lost power.  

“We talked to Seapointe Village and The Grand. They said their clients were at the pool and the beach, but with no AC (air conditioning) and electricthat’s a bummer,” Laffey said.  

The power outage caused disruption for businesses and events. Lifeguard races in Wildwood Crestscheduled for July 7, were canceled due to the power outage. The Wildwood Crest Library closed around 3 p.m. that day, as well. 

Cabrera, July 7, said it is amazing how much society depends on electricity for so many things, including cell phone service, internet email service, and so on. He said his wife now owns an electric vehicle, which was obviously impacted by the outage.  

He said there were a lot of businesses concerned about losing products, which they eventually did. 

“Some of the restaurants and coffee shops that have product are keeping their cooler doors closed, which they should, and some people have generators or borrowed portable generators,” Cabrera said July 7 

He noted some people were going to be checking out of their hotels early or delaying their check-ins until they were certain power had been restored. 

“They say power is going to be restored in a couple hours, but my guess is it won’t be until into the wee hours of the morning,” Cabrera said.  

Each of the affected communities set up a cooling station for residents who were in need of a reprieve from the heat.  

The Wildwood Police Department issued several updates throughout the power outage, noting they would “have additional personnel in place until the power is restored.  

The police also asked people to check on elderly family members and said to call to request well-being checks.   

‘Fake News’ 

North Wildwood Police Department (NWPD), in a July 9 Facebook post, referenced a video of an arrest circulating on social media, calling it “fake news.” 

In the video, a person is heard saying the video showed NWPD arresting the person who “blew up the electric plant.”  

Conrad Johnson from the Cape May County Fire Marshal’s Office said, July 10, that the fire clearly started due to an electrical issue in a transfer station. He said there was no cause for further investigation by his office.  

Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128. 

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