“It’s been a pretty wild week,” a visibly exhausted Mayor James Maley told the crowd of borough residents at Monday’s commissioners meeting. Many had brought with them concerns about the expected timeline for restoration of power to their homes.
“While we obviously didn’t get what happened at the shore, I think we were hit pretty hard,” he said.
“What we have is bad, but the stuff they’re dealing with elsewhere in the state, it’s hard to yell and scream.”
Maley then recounted some of the details of the destruction for the benefit of those assembled.
Four utility poles downed in the neighborhoods of Bettlewood Avenue and Harding Terrace. Two transformers smashed, with HAZMAT trucks called out to clean up an oil leak from one of the shattered transformers. Orange extension cords draped between windows of homes where neighbors were lending power to keep each other’s refrigerators running.
Maley thanked borough staff, was thanked publicly by some residents and fielded questions from others.
Charlene French of Marina Park Apartments wondered why some of the low-lying Collingswood homes along the Cooper River were not evacuated while their Cherry Hill neighbors faced mandatory evacuation notices.
“Last year when Irene hit, the water did come over the river,” French pointed out. “It came up as high as one of the banks and hit transformers there,” which caught on fire.
Maley explained that Collingswood didn’t order mandatory evacuations because the county damming of the river protected most of the low-lying areas in town from significant flood damage.
“Rest assured we have places set up in the event that we needed to do it,” Maley said. “We didn’t open them because we never got to that point where we felt there was a need that we had to do it.
“If they’d kept the dams up, we might have been faced with situations where we had to mandatorily evacuate,” he said.
John Fleming of Bettlewood Avenue was concerned with the potential impact of the Nor’easter that later descended upon the region Wednesday.
“I’m one of the people that’s still without power,” Fleming said. “The mayor’s been out there supporting us the best he can. The fire department and police department I can’t say enough; they were there in a heartbeat.
"The question is, where’s our next step?" he asked. "We’ve been working with you and you’ve been great, but do we go someplace else to put more pressure on somebody?”
“You can call everywhere and anybody you want,” Maley said. “I’m all in favor of that.”
“I tried to call the governor,” Fleming said, wryly. “It didn’t work.”
Thankfully, power was restored throughout the borough before the weather this week, which was less severe than advertised. And according to Maley on Thursday evening, most of anything that’s left to repair is related to cable and Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast.