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Essex County Braces for Nor'easter

Find out how towns are preparing for strong winds, slushy mess Winter Storm Athena will bring to area

Weather-weary towns in Essex County are going to get walloped again by nor'easter Athena, a winter storm that will bring a slushy, windy mess to our area Wednesday into Thursday.

Just one week after Super Storm Sandy swept through the region, leaving behind a mess of days-long power outages and fallen trees, Athena, a much weaker storm,  could add insult to injury for many.

Occasional wind gusts over 50 mph, as well as some accumulating snow that could mix with rain, are forecasted into Wednesday night, with Athena tapering off Thursday afternoon, according to Weather.com.

With snow starting to fall Wednesday afternoon in Essex County, town officials in the eastern part of the county are preparing for the worst – especially one week Super Storm Sandy and the mess of power outages and destruction.

Those without power and heat will have to brave yet another night of chilly temperatures, which will hold steady in the mid-30s throughout Wednesday night.

In Newark, one of the hardest hit areas in terms of Sandy power outages, some 40,000 people were still without power Tuesday. Urging residents to take Athena seriously, Mayor Cory Booker advised them to take common sense precautions, like getting flashlights, filling bathtubs with water, stocking up on perishable food and other measures necessary in the event of another crippling power outage.

The borough of North Caldwell, where 100 percent of residents lost power during Hurricane Sandy, is ready to face the next weather challenge.

"We have spread brine on our hills and higher elevation areas," said Department of Public Works Director Frank Zichelli Wednesday. "We have plenty of salt and our salters and plows are ready to go."

Zichelli said between a half-inch and three-and-a-half inches of snow are expected to drop by the time the storm passes through on Thursday.

Athena has already forced Bloomfield to cancel its school board meeting Wednesday night, after the district rescheduled it last week because of Sandy. Department of Public Works took precautions Wednesday and loaded up trucks with salt and hooked up plows in case of accumulating snow, said Director of the Office of Emergency Management Fred Menzel.

Nutley residents still without power have been advised to call the Mayor Alphonse Petracco's office at 973-284-4935. All of the town's parks and recreation department activities and sports programs have been canceled Wednesday.

Mayor Petracco said said first responders and other town workers were back on full alert for the nor’easter.

"We’re praying we don’t have more branches coming down," he said.

He also urged residents to prepare for this storm as they had for Sandy "in case we have to go through this again."

"I would ask residents to fill up your gas tank today," he said. "The lines in town are diminishing."

Belleville Township Councilman Steve Rovell said that the township’s Office of Emergency Management is "back on track" for this latest storm and a shelter has been set up at the senior citizen’s building at Franklin Avenue and Mill Street.

"Adjustments may be made" regarding shelter "depending on the power situation."

The town's Department of Public Works is on alert and salters and plows are ready to go, he also said.

Cedar Grove has arranged a warming station at the town's Ambulance and Rescue Squad for anyone without power. Residents can bring their toiletries, take a hot shower, charge their devices and enjoy the warmth.

To make arrangements to use the facility call the Cedar Grove Police non-emergency number at (973) 239-4100.

As of Wednesday, 76 Cedar Grove residents were still without power, said Cedar Grove Mayor Peter Tanella.

Montclair Fire Department has issued a comprehensive safety and precaution list, applicable to all Essex County residents. See the attached PDF for more information.

Safety and precautions every resident should know: 

Power lines

  • Never assume that a downed power line is not energised, as it could be "live."
  • To report a downed wire, call 911.
  • Never go near or touch an electrical wire or anything in contact with the wire.

Generators and Heating Units 

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devise inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. 
  • Locate units away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. 
  • Never contact a generator directly to your home's wiring unless your home has been wired for generator use. 

Carbon Monoxide 

  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide an early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide. 
  • If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors, or by an open window or door. 
  • Call 911 from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you. 

Gasoline Safety

  • Gasoline containers should never be brought inside. Store and use outside.
  • Never smoke or use any item that can cause a spark anywhere near gasoline.
  • Only use "approved" gasoline containers.

Candle Safety

  • Candles are not recommended, but if they must be used, follow these guidelines. 
  • Put candles in sturdy metal, glass or ceramic holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.
  • Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn.
  • Keep candles out of reach of children and pets.
  • Children should never be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles. 
  • Never use a candle where medical oxygen is being used. The two can combine to create a large unexpected fire. 
  • Extinguish candles after use and before going to bed or leaving the house. 
  • Keep candles away from windows where they can ignite curtains. 
  • Never leave candles unattended. 

Water Pipes

  • For those who still have no power or heat, consider turning off your water in your home at the main shut-off to prevent broken water pipes or keep water from trickling from the tap to keep the water flowing -- this will lessen the chance of pipes freezing.

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