SOMERSET, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday praised utility crews for working 16-hour days and through a snowstorm to restore power across New Jersey and cautioned against casting anyone as a villain in the recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
"The villain in this case is Hurricane Sandy," he said.
The governor told a morning news conference that he expected New Jerseyans, except for a "few outliers," to have electricity restored by early Sunday at the latest.
But late in the day, Jersey Central Power & Light said it would take into next week to restore power to about 120,000 households and businesses that lost their electricity during the nor'easter that struck Wednesday. JCP&L spokesman Ron Moran did not give a specific target date. He said customers whose service was knocked out by Sandy should have power restored by the end of the weekend.
At his briefing, the governor said the nor'easter caused only a slight setback to recovery work. Utility crews "worked right through the snowstorm. They are doing a good job," he said.
"I really believe with the exception of a few outliers in some very difficult areas like some of the barrier island towns, especially the ones between Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights, with the exception of those, I think most people will have power by Saturday. This set us back probably a day — 24 hours, 36 hours," Christie said during the morning storm briefing in Somerset. "This pushes us back to late Saturday, maybe early Sunday at the latest."
Christie said winds from the nor'easter were not as severe as feared, and he said the wet snow was a blessing — because it wasn't rain, which would have caused flooding. The new storm appeared to cause little new damage to the already scarred Jersey Shore.
The number of outages blamed on the snowstorm jumped to more than 200,000 on Thursday afternoon, bumping the total number in the state back over 400,000.
"The good news is we have not seen the kind of damage we saw with Hurricane Sandy, so we are confident we will be able to move forward with our recovery efforts," Christie said.
Asked about the performance of JCP&L, which was heavily criticized for its response to Tropical Storm Irene last year, the governor said the utility has done "significantly better" than it did during the last big storm.
JCP&L, the state's second-biggest utility, was hit harder by both Sandy and by the nor'easter than the state's largest utility, Public Service Electric & Gas, he said.
"They drew the short straw on this one," he said.
PSE&G said Thursday it expected to have power restored to all its customers by Saturday, one day later than it had projected prior to the snowstorm.
The governor said he believed New Jerseyans have shown less frustration with the utilities' response to Sandy than they did after Irene because customers have received much more information about restoration efforts. The governor required the utilities to post a timetable for their town-by-town restoration efforts.