Updated: Sandy hits Princeton; more than 30 trees down on campus; thousands without power in local area
The University will be closed again on Tuesday due to the impending landing of Hurricane Sandy. All events have been canceled and Frist Campus Center has been closed beginning this afternoon. However, “critical campus functions” may reopen on Tuesday; a decision will be made at noon.
As of 10 p.m. Monday night, more than 30 trees had fallen down on campus, and University buildings off campus — including graduate student housing — had lost power. Some students on campus reported power outages earlier in the evening, though power was quickly restored.
Hurricane Sandy landed near Atlantic City, N.J. on Monday evening, and Mercer County will remain on high wind warning until 9 a.m. Tuesday.
While the area awoke Monday to only moderate rain and winds, the situation quickly deteriorated. Several roads were closed due to flooding and fallen trees and electric wires starting at noon.
A briefing from the Mount Holly, N.J. station of the National Weather Service briefing issued at 8 p.m. forecasted the damages that occurred in Princeton only a few hours later.
“A prolonged period of high winds will increase the potential for structural damage and widespread power outages,” the briefing said, due to “the combination of wind, increasing rain [and] softened ground.”
As of 10 p.m. Monday, at least 35 roads had been closed in Princeton, although many of them had reopened earlier in the day. This prompted the Princeton Borough and Princeton Township authorities to first ask residents not to drive and to later impose a travel restriction on all of the Princeton roadways just before 9 p.m. Monday.
“Conditions are very dangerous; therefore it is not safe to be on the roadways,” the joint Borough and Township statement said.
Meanwhile, the University sent out its fourth message through the Princeton Telephone and Email Notification System in less than 36 hours on Tuesday just before 9 p.m. to announce that many campus buildings were being switched to electric power from the University’s cogeneration plant.
The message said that updates would be posted on the main University website, though it took an hour for an update about the power situation to be posted online.
Students on campus reported power outages in Whitman, Butler and Forbes colleges from about 7:15 p.m. to 7:20 p.m., though power was restored shortly thereafter.
Only four hours before the latest PTENS message, an earlier mass message had told students to remain indoors and away from windows due to the danger of falling trees. Many trees fell down in the surrounding area in addition to the 30 that fell on campus. The fallen trees and electric wires caused widespread power outages, especially during the evening.
"Students are advised to take extra water and food to their residences, shelter in place and stay away from windows," the PTENS message said.
According to the website of the Public Service Enterprise Group, the electric utility company that supplies electricity to Princeton Borough and Township, between 2,001 and 5,000 people have been left without power in the Township. In the Borough, between 501 and 2,000 people are currently in the dark.
While the cogeneration plant can supply power to connected buildings on campus, off-campus buildings have to rely on the utility company.
The Stanworth and Butler apartments, which house graduate students, do not currently have power. Other nonresidential facilities off campus have also been left without power.
Residents of the 2 Dickinson St. Co-op were sent a specific PTENS message advising them to stay inside or seek shelter in Dillon Gymnasium because the entry door “may remain in locked position.” The co-op currently has power.
Two separate emergency operations centers were set up Monday to coordinate response efforts. One is run by the University, and one is jointly run by the Borough and the Township. The mayors of the two municipalities, Yina Moore ’79 and Chad Goerner, declared a state of emergency in the two Princeton communities in the morning.
The University closed Frist at 4 p.m. Monday, and critical personnel and local emergency services officials were seen having lunch at Rockefeller College together with students. Dining Services has requested additional help staffing the dining hall.
Rescue crews are being offered breakfast, as well as the regular fall break brunch and dinner.
Rescue workers used to eat meals during crises at the University Medical Center at Princeton, University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said. But since the hospital has moved to Plainsboro, the University offered to serve them, he added.
Township Mayor Chad Goerner said in an interview at noon that even at that time incidents of power outages had already been reported.
“We’ve advised all residents to stay home, and only emergency personnel should be outside,” he said.
At a noon press conference, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie warned residents to be safe and avoid improvising power generation if electricity goes out.
“If it looks stupid, it is stupid, and you're going to wind up hurting yourselves and others,” Christie said.
Township Hall, located at 400 Witherspoon Street, is currently open and has been declared a shelter space for anyone needs it.
Roads close to campus that remain closed include Nassau Street, between Washington and Harrison and sections of Elm Drive by Edwards Halls and Faculty Road.
More than half a million residents have already lost power in New Jersey, and power crews will not be able to fix the problems before Wednesday, when the majority of the storm will have passed, Christie said.