Kendall Park loses power

About 2,000 homes and two schools lose power.

By: Sharlee Joy DiMenichi and Rebecca Tokarz
   Weather-related power outages left about 2,000 Kendall Park homes and the Cambridge and Constable schools in the dark Tuesday morning.
   Accumulated road salt, water and dirt between electrical wires caused a short, resulting in a 2½-hour blackout, which began at 6:05 a.m., said Renee DiNardi, a spokeswoman for Public Service Electric & Gas, the utility company that maintains the lines.
   Groups of electrical wires are usually separated by insulators, which prevent electrical currents from traveling from line to line and causing the equivalent of a short in the electrical grid, Ms. DiNardi said.
   The deposits of water and salt along the insulators caused them to become conductors, which resulted in sparking and the power failure, Ms. DiNardi said.
   Police Detective Jim Ryan said the outage affected houses from Sand Hill Road to New Road and from Route 1 to Route 27, including Cambridge School.
   He said traffic was redirected all morning and that one minor accident was reported due to the rerouting.
   Power was restored at Cambridge just before 9 a.m., allowing for a regular school day, according to Assistant Superintendent Jeff Scott. Had the school remained without power for much longer, the district would have transported students to another building because the school would have lacked heat.
   Constable school was not as lucky, officials said.
   According to PSE&G, the school lost power for much of the day for a different reason — several downed power lines in the area. The school, which does not have a generator to keep it lit, had its power turned off while utility crews attempted to fix the problem, Mr. Scott said.
   The district closed the school early and power was restored around 12:30 p.m., just before buses came to transport students home, Mr. Scott said.
   Teachers rearranged classrooms to move desks closer to the window to use as much natural light as possible, officials said.
   The district opted to move forward with an early closing because district officials had already called more than 200 parents informing them of the decision to close the building, Mr. Scott said.
   "There was no turning back at that point," he said.
   Because students remained in the building for four hours, it was counted as a full school day, Mr. Scott said.
   This is the second time Constable has lost power this year because of weather-related problems this school year and the fourth time overall in the district.
   Constable lost power on Sept. 23 after a storm ripped through the area, ripping down power lines in the Kendall Park area. The other Kendall Park schools, Brunswick Acres and Cambridge were not affected by that storm.
   Brooks Crossing on Deans Rhode Hall Road lost power Sept. 19 following downed lines resulting from Hurricane Isabel and again in late December. The district has yet to decide when the lost day will be made up.
   Mr. Scott said that in his 11 years in the district, he has never seen this many instances in one school year where power was lost.
   "We’ve had some pretty severe weather that has been a contributing factor. All of the power outages this year have been weather-related," he said.
   The district announced earlier this month that it wants to solicit bids from vendors to get a cost estimate on generators for Brooks Crossing, Constable, Greenbrook, Monmouth Junction and a portion of Crossroads North Middle School, which do not have backup generators on site.
   The district could use money from the newly approved $46.32 million expansion and upgrade project to cover the cost, officials said.