Almost 60,000 Morris and Sussex county residents lost power amid Tuesday's sweltering heat, after a high-voltage power line collapsed over Route 80. The downed line forced the shutdown of the highway, snarling traffic in the area and adding to the chaos.
At the height of the outage around 4:30 p.m., Jersey Central Power & Light reported 25,773 customers in Morris County without service, including 8,973 outages in Jefferson Township alone, where the power line fell near the highway's intersection with Route 15, according to Chris Hoenig, a spokesperson for the utility.
In Sussex County, 32,905 homes, businesses and other customers waited for service to return in the day's blazing heat, with 7,091 outages in Sparta and 4,405 in Vernon.
By around 9:30 p.m., power had been restored to all but a couple hundred customers in Morris County, while 2,655 outages still lingered in Sussex.
The company was unsure as of Tuesday evening what had caused the line to fail, Hoenig said. The incident shut down both sides of Route 80 for a time, but traffic was flowing again by the start of rush hour, albeit with backups extended as far east as Route 287.
While the outage exacerbated the discomfort for those who lost air conditioning, the current heatwave was not a likely culprit as the company's system has so far remained well within its capacity, Hoenig said.
“We’ve had no issues in terms of being able to handle the demand," he said.
The Sussex Rural Electrical Cooperative, which serves 12,000 customers in Sussex and parts of Orange County, New York, said it had been affected as well.
"Transmission lines beyond our system are down and we know very little at the moment," the company said in a midafternoon notice to customers. "This is a far-reaching outage affecting many towns, not just our service territory. Please be patient."
PSE&G, which serves parts of northeastern, central and southern New Jersey, reported fewer outages. About 1,000 customers in Wayne were out at the start of the evening but that had dropped to fewer than five by nighttime.
The utility could not yet confirm whether the interruptions were related to downed wires reported near French Hill and Valley roads, said Rebecca Mazzarella, a spokesperson for PSE&G, who reminded customers to avoid downed wires, keeping a distance of at least 30 feet, and to immediately call local police and the service provider.
Staff writers Lori Comstock and William Westhoven contributed to this article.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Morris County NJ outage, Rt. 80 traffic from power line snap