Northeast storm's wake: more than half million without power

CONCORD, N.H. — Frustration turned to resignation Saturday for hundreds of thousands of people in the Northeast struggling to survive another day waiting for crews to restore electricity after powerful storms socked the region with heavy snow, rain and hurricane-force winds.

The region was left to deal with the fallout of gusting winds that created near-blizzard conditions this week in what was the third strong storm this month for some areas. Parts of New York got more than 2 feet of snow while some areas of coastal New England were drenched with flooding rains.

One man was killed by a falling snow-laden tree branch in Central Park in New York, and two people in Candia, N.H., died in a house fire caused by improperly using a propane heater to stay warm, fire officials said.

The highest wind reported from the storm was 91 mph off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H. — well above hurricane force of 74 mph. Gusts also hit 60 mph or more from the mountains of West Virginia to New York's Long Island and Massachusetts.

Frustration was beginning to show on Charlotte Letteney's face Saturday at Concord High School, one of 24 shelters in New Hampshire. Letteney, 64, of Allenstown, arrived Friday night with her 66-year-old husband, who is a paraplegic, two granddaughters, her grandson-in-law and 6-month-old great-grandson.

The family left their mobile home when the temperature dropped to 46 degrees and Letteney's hands had gone numb, leaving behind four parrots in covered cages and a couple of days' worth of food for their dog, Bosco. They have no car — a city van brought them to the shelter — and no way to get home to feed the animals or to let the dog out.

"He'll go out in the kitchen, and I'll have to sterilize my floor," Letteney said.

The Letteneys are among more than 1 million customers across the Northeast who lost power because of the storm, and as of Saturday afternoon more than half of them were still without electricity. New Hampshire's electrical grid was the hardest hit, with more than a quarter-million customers still without power. New York had more than 160,000 outages and Maine about 67,000.

Some residents were warned they'll be without electricity for up to a week, as uprooted trees and fallen utility poles hindered utility crews.

Bow, N.H., Assistant Fire Chief Dick Pistey compared the situation two years ago during a powerful ice storm when ice quickly coated trees, bringing down tree limbs and power lines, leaving millions without power — some for two weeks.

"It's deja vu all over again," Pistey said.

In Londonderry, N.H., Irene Stanley, 68, was sitting in a rocking chair next to a wood stove to keep warm, her royal blue beta fish in its container nearby. Stanley, who managed without power for nearly two weeks during the ice storm two years ago, said her mission for the day was to buy batteries for her radio.

In York, Maine, 70-year-old lobsterman Pat White was able to use his generator to help cook a pancake breakfast Saturday to feed his neighbors who were without power — a father, his daughter and her baby. White and his wife, Enid, were planning what to serve them for dinner.

"We've got to use up some of the stuff in the refrigerator," he said.

Nick Vermette, 49, a safety specialist for Central Maine Power, the state's largest utility, was supervising crews restoring power in Portland on Saturday. He said the 17-hour days are exhausting.

"By the time you drive home take a shower, try to get to sleep, get up and come back, you're averaging four to five hours sleep," he said.

Northeast storm's wake: more than half million without power 02/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 27, 2010 9:43pm]

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