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    More than 50,000 customers were without power as of 11 a.m. as the power problems went from bad to worse

    Tens of thousands of homes and businesses across the state are without power Friday due to a combination of issues at a substation and switching stations for two of the state's major utility companies, officials said.

    The overall outages for PSE&G and JCP&L customers hit 50,000 customers by 11 a.m. The problem areas and numbers have changed rapidly through morning since the outages began around 5:30 a.m.

    Union County was bearing the brunt of the outages at 11 a.m. with 21,000 PSE&G customers without electricity due to what a spokeswoman called weather-related damage to circuits at switching stations. In all, the state's largest utility company has around 40,000 affected customers. 

    By noon, PSE&G said it had restored power to 35,000 customers though the morning, and about 10,000 remain without power. The company's power outage map was also not updating correctly, a spokeswoman said.

    Rain and condensation mixed with residual salt on roadways and walkways caused equipment to malfunction, spokeswoman Deann Muzikar said in an email.

    Newark airport terminal partially evacuated due to transformer fire

    Most of those affected are in Cranford, Clark, Kenilworth, Mountainside, Elizabeth and Union. While some of the customers should have power restored within an hour, PSE&G isn't sure when everyone will have their electricity restored. 

    Bergen, Essex and Passaic also have several thousand homes and businesses without power. 

    A power outage in the Edison area forced the closure of one of New Jersey's largest shopping malls -- the Menlo Park Mall -- Friday afternoon. Another power outage, about four miles away from the mall, darkened traffic signals on Route 1 in the Avenel section of Woodbridge.

    The Avenel outage prompted some local businesses to temporarily close Friday afternoon and also forced police to block traffic from entering Route 1 from Smith Street, because of the non-working traffic signals.

    The number of PSE&G outages has climbed substantially since 8:30 a.m. when there were about 6,000.

    Meanwhile, more than 11,00 JCP&L customers were without power as of 11 a.m after an issue at a substation, a spokesman said. At the peak of the outages for JCP&L, more than 20,000 customers were without power.

    (Note: PSE&G advised at noon that its outage data, which feeds this tracker may not be updating correctly)

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    Most of the outages are in Morris and Sussex counties, with Mount Olive and Byram having the most in their respective counties. 

    Bryam schools are closed Friday because of a lack of power. Several others schools opened late. The County College of Morris, Wilson School in Lodi,  Hawthorne High School and Mountain Park School in Berkeley Heights all had a delayed opening. 

    Several Newark schools have reported power outages throughout the day. At least one school - Central High School - has called for an early dismissal due to lost power.

    Atlantic City Electric had about 1,700 outages earlier Friday morning, but all have been restored, spokesman Frank Tedesco said. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    The brawl broke out after a game at Old Bridge High School

    A man was arrested following a large fight in the parking lot at Old Bridge High School after a boys basketball game Thursday night authorities said. 

    Oluwafei M. Adeleye, 25, of Old Bridge, was charged with disorderly conduct, police said. He also had a warrant out for his arrest.

    The brawl at around 8:15 p.m. involved as many as 50 people and included snowballs being thrown, according to police. The fight occurred after Old Bridge played Monroe Township High School.

    Man entered Catholic school, stole from teacher's bag, cops say

    Police also responded to an altercation in the parking lot of Wendy's on Route 516 just before 9 p.m., but the crowd was dispersing when officers arrived. Police could not confirm the incidents were related.

    "It is disheartening when any young adults from anywhere make poor decisions," Old Bridge school superintendent David Cittadino said. Cittadino deferred further comment to police.

    Old Bridge defeated Monroe, 55-51 in the basketball game.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    Claiming they are overtaxed and underfunded, the districts are taking legal action.

    Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has promised to fully fund public schools, but a group of New Jersey school districts won't wait to find out if he sticks to his word. 

    Declaring themselves overtaxed and underfunded, 10 districts announced legal action Friday, saying they will petition the state education commissioner to fix inequalities in state school aid in a potential precursor to a lawsuit against the state. 

    "We have been waiting a long time for answers," said G. Kennedy Greene, superintendent of Newton Public Schools in Sussex County. "There are lots of things that have been promised. We want to make sure that school aid stays at the top of that list." 

    The 10-district coalition is part of larger group of 96 districts receiving less than 70 percent of the state aid they say they are owed, Greene said. Because they are being shorted by the state, the districts say they must tax residents more than the school funding formula suggests is necessary.

    The affected districts range from small to large and low-income to affluent, Greene said. 

    Districts participating in the petition to the education commissioner include: 

    • Emerson School District, Little Ferry Public Schools and Wallington Public Schools in Bergen County. 
    • Chesterfield Township School District in Burlington County.
    • Swedesboro-Woolwich School District and Kingsway Regional School District in Gloucester County. 
    • Jamesburg Public Schools, North Brunswick Township Public Schools and Middlesex School District in Middlesex County. 
    • Newton Public Schools in Sussex County.

    Sweeney backs districts in school aid fight

    Dozens of residents from those communities have also joined the petition along with the Town of Newton, Swedesboro Borough and East Greenwich and Woolwich townships. 

    "We are tired of being grossly underfunded," Kingsway Superintendent James Lavender said. "And our taxpayers are tired of being grossly overtaxed."

    The petition is the latest attempt to address the state's decades-old school funding controversy, an issue that has rankled state lawmakers and infuriated homeowners. 

    Though New Jersey has a school funding formula designed to award state aid based on districts' demographics and enrollment, it annually underfunds that formula by about $1 billion a year. The figure would rise closer to $2 billion if the state decides to remove a cap lawmakers imposed limiting how much a district's aid can increase in a single year. 

    The petition asks the state to stop providing some school districts more aid than they are owed under the funding formula, something lawmakers have allowed to appease districts that would otherwise see a reduction in aid. 

    The underfunding of the formula plus continued overfunding of districts that should see a reduction in aid has left some districts, including Newton, reeling, Greene said. 

    Newton currently receives about $6 million of the $10.3 million it would receive if the the state fully funded the formula and lifted the cap on annual state aid increases, Greene said.

    Meanwhile, the district is collecting about $12.5 million in local property taxes this year, about $4 million more than the school funding formula calls for, he said. 

    "New Jersey's school funding problem is directly responsible for its property tax problem," Greene said. "Just as there is discrimination in state aid allocations, there are also tax burdens that are unreasonable compared to the community's ability to pay."

    Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook

     

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    Less than 36 hours away from his inauguration, Gov.-elect Phil Murphy ended the day Sunday jamming to Busta Rhymes in a gym at Middlesex County College. Watch video

    It felt like a homecoming.

    The setting was perfect for it -- a pitch dark gymnasium illuminated by strobe lights that danced to the blaring club music while people stood around waiting for the action to get started.

    And it was a homecoming, at least in a sense, for the people who helped Phil Murphy get elected and transition him into leading New Jersey. He thanked them all -- especially the millennials -- from the stage Sunday night. 

    Less than 36 hours away from his swearing-in as governor, Murphy ended the day jamming to Busta Rhymes in a gym at Middlesex County College.

    The concert capped a day of inaugural events that included a wreath laying at the Wildwood Veterans Memorial Wall and an event for children at the aquarium in Camden.

    Expo preview

    "We are incredibly humbled by the responsibility. We know this job won't be easy. We will do it as a team as we always have. And we know while it won't be easy and it won't be overnight, that if we work together, we will get there," Murphy, surrounded by his family members, said. 

    Murphy spent most of the evening on the sidelines, taking pictures with interested parties and tapping his foot to the music.

    He fed off the high-spirits of the event, coming on stage and doing one of those side kick/jumps.

    But what really got him energized, like the rest of the crowd, was when Rhymes (birth name Trevor George Smith Jr.) took to the stage.

    Busta Rhymes was one of a handful of performers who entertained those gathered at the "millenials concert" and rally.

    In the last song of Rhymes' set, the chorus is, "Jump, Jump."

    Between songs, Rhymes repeatedly sang Murphy's praises and encouraged those gathered in the crowd to celebrate that Murphy, a Democrat, would take the office.

    "I salute New Jersey for stepping up to the plate," Rhymes said.

    Murphy repeatedly used his time at the microphone to thank the members in his team and the elected officials who came out in the cold evening on Sunday to celebrate.

    He reiterated that he wanted to put together a team that is, "as diverse as this state, as diverse as the community we serve."

    Murphy upheld that commitment earlier in the day when he named Col. Jemal J. Beale as his appointment to lead the state's National Guard and Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs as Adjutant General. Beale is the first minority to lead the state's National Guard, according to Murphy's team.

    Murphy will be inaugurated on Tuesday, and an inaugural ball will be held on the field at MetLife Stadium.

    Sara Jerde may be reached at sjerde@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SaraJerde.

    Have information about this story or something else we should be covering? Tell us: nj.com/tips

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    Dogs and cats throughout the state await adoption.

    Here is this week's collection of some of the dogs and cats in need of adoption in New Jersey.

    We accept dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey.

    If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on nj.com, please contact Greg Hatala at ghatala@starledger.com or call 973-836-4922.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    NJ.com looks at the can't-miss dual meets, quads and county and conference tournaments for the week of Jan 15-20, 2018


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    See what the biggest girls basketball games across N.J. are this week.


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    A five-year plan released earlier this month under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's watch would allow offshore drilling in more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf, which includes areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.

    News that Florida appears to have gotten a pass from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke while the Garden State's Atlantic Coast will likely be open for drilling has members of New Jersey's congressional delegation fuming.

    A five-year plan released earlier this month under Zinke's watch would allow offshore drilling in more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf, which includes areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.

    The plan drew immediate outrage from governors and members of Congress representing coastal states - for good reason.

    As U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-4th) and Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd) point out in a letter, the proposal poses significant economic and environmental risks to local marine wildlife - the lifeblood of commercial fishermen - while threatening a tourism industry that depends heavily on clean beaches.

    Chris Christie and Phil Murphy join together to fight Trump

    Three dozen Democratic senators - including our own Robert Menendez and Cory Booker - shot off a letter as well, in essence pleading with the feds not to tamper with a valuable natural resource to satisfy the cravings of oil magnates.

    Equally strong opposition came from the governors of New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as New Jersey.

    But Zinke so far has had ears only for Florida's Gov. Rick Scott.

    After a meeting with the GOP governor, Zinke announced he's decided to exempt the state of Walt Disney, orange groves and alligators - and let's not forget Mar-a-Lago - from the new open-drilling policy.

    "I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver," Zinke said in a message announcing his decision.

    So what are we in New Jersey - chopped liver?

    It may be just a coincidence that Florida went big for Donald Trump in 2016, and that Scott is a buddy of the president's. It may also be a coincidence that Scott is expected to run for a U.S. Senate seat later this year against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

    Meanwhile, New Jersey and other states equally affected by the expanded drilling have are justified to view the administration as playing favorites.

    But the nation's coastal waters are too valuable to be used as political bargaining chips, and Zinke has inadvertently exposed the Department of the Interior to court action for his seemingly arbitrary - and indefensible - decision to bestow his blessing only on the Sunshine State.

    U.S. Rep Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th), the leading Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, summed up the injustice in a few choice words.

    "Florida," he said, "should not be given special status because the president is friends with Gov. Scott."

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    Who stole our attention on the hardcourt this week?


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    For three Skyland Conference members of the New Jersey Wrestling Top 20, Tuesday, Jan. 16 is moving day.


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    Check out the NJSIAA wrestling power points based on dual meets completed as of Jan. 13


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    Tyrone Osorio was found by police on Elizabeth Avenue in Elizabeth with multiple gunshot wounds

    A 30-year-old East Brunswick man has died after being shot over the weekend in Union County, authorities said. 

    Police found Tyrone Osorio at about 4 a.m. Sunday on the 500 block of Elizabeth Avenue in Elizabeth with multiple gunshot wounds, Acting Union County Prosecutor Ann M. Luvera said in a release. 

    Osorio was taken to University Hospital in Newark where he died Monday at about 4:45 p.m., according to  Luvera.

    The Union County Crime Stoppers are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information about the shooting. Anyone with details can call 908-358-3048 or 908-654-TIPS (8477).

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at CMcCarthy@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips 

     

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    A former state champion re-classified this week to highlight several weight-class changes


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    Who shined in the past week on the basketball court?


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    Check out the biggest stories in N.J. ice hockey from this week.


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    A 12-year-old boy sent the 23-year-old man a nude photo

    A former emergency medical technician and volunteer firefighter faces at least a 10-year prison term after admitting he talked a 12-year-old boy into producing sexually-explicit images.

    zachary-motta-f374e9a64f56d78e.jpgZachary Motta (MIddlesex County Prosecutor's Office) 

    Zachary Motta, 23, of the Iselin section of Woodbridge pleaded guilty to online enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey said in a statement Tuesday.

    The online chat between Motta and the 12-year-old boy started in October 2016 when Motta sent photos of himself in his EMT and firefighter uniforms and asked the boy to send him nude photos, officials said.

    "Just don't get caught," Motta allegedly said to the boy, according to the criminal complaint. 

    The boy complied with the request, according to authorities.

    Motta faces 10 years to life in prison when he is sentenced May 10.

    He was originally charged in February 2017 with endangering the welfare of a child and possession of child pornography.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    A 39-year-old woman was issued two summonses

    A public works vehicle spreading sand on a snow-covered road in South Brunswick overturned after a woman lost control of her car and struck the truck, authorities said.

    A 39-year-old woman from the Kendall Park section of town was driving west on Beekman Road around 7:15 a.m. when she veered into the eastbound lane as she approached a crest in the road, South Brunswick police said.

    The driver of the eastbound sand truck swerved to the right to avoid hitting her car, but the Honda Civic collided with the larger vehicle's left rear wheel, sending it tumbling over.

    The truck driver, a 42-year-old South Brunswick man, was taken to a local hospital to be treated for lacerations, police said. The driver of the car was not hurt, they said. Police issued her two summonses - one for careless driving and one for obstructing the passage of other vehicles, authorities said.

    Beekman Road was closed for two hours between Jared Drive and Route 1 as police investigated. 

    South Brunswick police tweeted a photo of the truck lying on its side.

    There were at least 14 crashes in the 40 square mile town between 7 and 9:30 a.m. police said. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    3rd edition of 2018 pound-for-pound wrestler rankings on the way to a statewide Top 50.


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    See who the top stat leaders are in each girls basketball category on Jan. 17.


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    The sprawling 52-year-old motorsports complex will focus on other types of racing, as well as concerts and its annual Tough Mudder competition Watch video

    Drivers, turn off your engines.

    After more than half a century of burning rubber, Raceway Park will no longer hold drag races, officials said.

    With the rising cost of fuel, tires, insurance and other expenses of speeding from a standstill to more than 200 mph on a 1,000-foot track, drag racing has become too expensive for the mostly amateur racers who drive on weekends and Wednesday nights at what is officially known as Old Bridge Raceway Park, said Steve Mamakas, executive officer of the Old Bridge Township Mayor's Office of Economic Development.

    "I'm a racer myself," said Mamakas, who races in a penny-orange 2009 Dodge Challenger SRTH with a 425-horse power engine. "Last time I raced was probably about a year and a half ago, and yea, I will miss it."

    The storied drag strip, with its familiar radio ads that blared, "Racewaaaaay Park!" is is a nationally known drag strip and longtime host of the National Hot Rod Association's Summernationals, which will not be run at the raceway in 2018.

    The NHRA, hot rodding's ruling body, issued a statement on Wednesday lamenting the end of drag racing at the raceway, which the NHRA referred to by its Englishtown mailing address.

    "NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years," NHRA president Glen Cromwell was quoted as saying. "The Summernationals have played an important part in our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another one of our events.  Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks."

    The Napp family, which opened the raceway in 1965 and continues to operate it privately, decided to end drag racing, and convert the grandstand and about half the strip into an outdoor concert venue, Mamakas told NJ Advance Media on Wednesday, after he met last week to discuss the changes with Raceway Park President Michael Napp.

    The family issued a statement about the closing, wishing to "express their most sincere gratitude to the NHRA, and the many thousands of racers and fans, without whom would have never allowed Raceway Park to become the iconic and nationally recognized drag racing facility it has over the past five decades."

    Despite the end of drag racing, Mamakas said the 480-acre complex will remain open and other forms of racing and motorsports will go on, including motocross, as well as cart racing and drifting. He said the site will continue to host a motor sports school and exotic car drives on its autocross track. The annual Tough Mudder competition, a non-motor sports use of the facility, will also continue, Mamakas said.

    "Let's put it this way, Raceway Park is transforming to meet the future," Mamakas said. "It's just become too expensive, and you have a small window to race there -- Saturday and Sunday and Wednesday, and Wednesday night it's hard to get out."

    Fans reacted to word of drag racing's end on social media.

    Mamakas said few if any of the mainly per diem workers at the raceway would be out of work as a result of the end of operations, because most also work in other areas of the complex, on other forms of racing. 

    Old Bridge Township Administrator and Chief Finanaiclal Officer Himanshu Shah said he did not anticipate any direct impact on township finances as a result. But he conceded that some local businesses might suffer from smaller crowds on weekends during the April-November race season, and certainly some would lament the loss of a key component of the community identify for the last half-century.

    "It's one of our historic attractions in the township," Shah said. "Raceway Park is known throughout the country, so it has a tremendous value in that regard."

    While fans will miss drag racing, not all memories of the sport at Raceway Park are fond. Funny car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a fiery crash there in June 2008. Two years later, Neal Parker of Millville was trying to qualify for the SuperNationals, of the National Hot Rod Association, when his 2005 Monte Carlo crashed at nearly 250 mph.

    One consolation for local motorists who aren't racing fans, Mamakas said, would be less congestion on Route 527.

    Steve Strunsky may be reached at sstrunsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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