In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it wasn't hard to spot the damage in Cherry Hill.
Traffic signals were dark along Kings Highway, where cones rerouted traffic along the northern end of the road. Utility poles along Route 38 in front of the Cherry Hill Mall still leaned at crazy angles, and cones blocked one of the mall's entrances near those poles.
Neighborhood streets were covered in leaves and limbs and debris. The hum of generators and the angry growls of chainsaws were impossible to miss where utility lines were down.
But amid all that, there were signs of a return to normal life—the mall reopened in the afternoon, and plenty of shoppers strolled through the courts, though there were a handful of stores that remained closed.
And after being shut down for two days, township officials announced the library and municipal building would reopen Wednesday. Municipal court, which was supposed to convene Tuesday, was canceled, and township officials said no penalties would be assessed on fines due Tuesday.
County officials also announced the reopening of county offices Wednesday, as well as the county technical schools, the county college and the county library system.
While stores and local and county government were getting things back together, power was another story.
Cherry Hill officials continued to emphasize the need for residents to notify PSE&G about outages, rather than calling or emailing the township.
“A significant number of homes in Cherry Hill have been affected, and we appreciate how frustrating it can be without power,” Mayor Chuck Cahn wrote in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “By calling PSE&G directly, you help ensure outages in Cherry Hill are accurately tracked, and you help add to the likelihood that Cherry Hill will receive a faster response.”
While crews started to assess the damage and begin repairs, PSE&G officials said it could take until next week to remove trees, repair lines and completely restore electricity to those who have been knocked out.
“PSE&G will be working around the clock to assess the damage and restore service,” said Ralph LaRossa, the utility's president. “Given the destructive nature of this storm, however, some customers may be without service for seven or more days.”
The company went further on its website, noting in a statement that while it's usually possible to give an estimated time on power restoration, the size and scope of Hurricane Sandy make their normal estimates all but impossible.
“This is not your average storm,” the statement read.
There may be wider-scale estimates on power restoration, though, company officials said, and customers who have requested callbacks will get a notification if those estimates shift by more than two hours.
“Those customers will also be notified when our system indicates their power has been restored,” the statement said. “Because there could be additional damage affecting a customer’s service, it’s critical that customers call back and let us know if they are still without power.”
At least some affected customers in Cherry Hill had been restored by Tuesday night, though PSE&G still indicated at least 5,000 customers were without power. Work on Route 70 to clear downed branches and lines, which had closed the highway's westbound lanes approaching Springdale Road, was completed late Tuesday night, and the state Department of Transportation removed that closure from its website.
County and local public works crews will also remain on the job Wednesday to continue the cleanup effort. More than 100 trees were removed from county roads Monday night and Tuesday, and county officials asked drivers to be on the lookout for crews working on busy roads Wednesday.
“The County will have all hands on deck tomorrow remediating storm damage and clearing debris. In addition, we will have hundreds of utility crews returning power to more than 30,000 customers that do not have it,” freeholder Ian Leonard said. “It’s imperative for residents, if they must drive, to be very careful of our men and women working beside them.”