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Wind Gusts Overpower Crews in New England

Power is on and off as ice-coated trees down more lines even as others are repaired.

November 19, 2002|From Associated Press

TORRINGTON, Conn. — Gusting winds sent ice-weakened trees crashing down across New England on Monday, frustrating crews as they worked to restore power to thousands of darkened homes after a weekend northeaster.

Schools were closed in parts of the region, and two highway deaths were blamed on icy conditions in Maine. In Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, thousands of residents were still without electrical power Monday evening as utility crews, their chain saws and wood chippers buzzing, worked to clear downed trees.

The northeaster swept into the region Sunday, bringing a mix of snow and freezing rain and leaving a coating of ice in its wake. Residents in Connecticut described a frightening two days filled with the constant crack of falling trees covered with more than an inch of ice.

"It looks like a bomb hit," said Nick Huebsch, 45, of Torrington. "They said I won't have power for another couple of days."

More than 130,000 customers of Connecticut Light & Power lost electricity during the storm, and at 9 p.m. Monday, more than 35,000 outages remained. The number fluctuated during the day as winds knocked down transmission lines.

More than 250 utility crews and 100 tree-cutting crews, some from as far away as New Jersey and New Hampshire, were expected to work through today, said Chris Riley, a CL&P spokesman. Dozens of Connecticut schools were closed Monday.

Shelters remained open as many residents prepared to spend a second night without electricity. For thousands in the state's rural northwest hills, that also meant another night without water, because electric well pumps remained inoperable.

Ruth Sweykoski, 83, hunkered down at one of two shelters in Torrington.

"I had to leave my home; it was too cold," Sweykoski said. "Everything was off and the furnace runs on electricity."

In Massachusetts, workers had almost finished restoring power when the winds hit during the day, leaving 18,000 Massachusetts Electric customers without service again. Workers had managed to cut that number to 3,800 by Monday evening.

"The storm really did a number on us," utility spokeswoman Amy Atwood said. "As soon as we'd restore power to one area, then the power would go out in another area, so we'd have to dispatch the crews."

In New York, meanwhile, about 15,000 customers of New York State Electric & Gas lost power, including 10,000 in the Catskills community of Liberty, NYSEG spokesman Clay Ellis said. Some were not expected to have power until Wednesday.

Thousands more residents elsewhere in the state lost power during the storm, but most of those problems were expected to be cleaned up Monday night, utility officials said. The same was true in Maine, where only a couple of hundred homes remained without electricity.

Sunday's storm formed along the coast of the Carolinas and rolled northward, producing rain from the Carolinas into southern New England, where colder air turned the rain to snow and ice.

The cold front extended all the way into Florida, where temperatures dipped into the freezing range early Monday in some northern counties. The cold snap was expected to continue Monday night, with more seasonable temperatures returning today.

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