Image: Flooded street in Peabody, Mass.
Elise Amendola  /  AP
A city worker wades through downtown Peabody, Mass., on Monday, after measuring floodwater depth.
updated 3/16/2010 10:50:39 AM ET 2010-03-16T14:50:39

A three-day rainstorm that caused extensive flooding and ripped trees out of the soaking wet ground was among the most devastating ever to the electrical grid in parts of the Northeast.

New Jersey's Public Service Electric & Gas said the weekend storm was the worst in its history, causing outages to more than 420,000 customers.

At the peak, the number of outages for Consolidated Edison, which powers New York City and some northern suburbs, was the worst since Hurricane Gloria in 1985, spokesman Chris Olert said.

At least 11 people died in storm-related accidents and more than a half-million people lost power in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Governors from New Jersey to Massachusetts were seeking federal assistance to help defray cleanup costs. The governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island each declared a state of emergency.

Skies clearing
On Tuesday, with skies clearing and the sun expected to shine, utility crews continued to chip away at the power outages.

About 46,000 customers remained without power in New Jersey. In Connecticut, nearly 41,000 homes and businesses were in the dark Tuesday, down from a peak of more than 85,000.

About 90,000 business and residential customers were still without power in New York City and its suburbs to the north and the east. Slideshow: Storm damage

In Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said the Tuesday morning commute on one trolley line was being hindered by washed-out track. The agency was using buses instead.

The storm threatened to overwhelm Boston's wastewater system, forcing officials to begin a controlled release of untreated wastewater into Boston Harbor.

The release poses a minimal risk to public health because the sewage will be diluted by rain water, said Fred Laskey, head of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, acknowledging that it was a storm of "historic proportions."

The rain forced the closure of some shellfishing beds in Rhode Island. And Cincinnati was preparing for minor flooding from the Ohio River, which is swollen from heavy rain and melting snow.

The storm, packing near-hurricane-force winds and heavy rain, toppled trees throughout the Northeast from Saturday through Monday. Thousands of trees fell in New York City alone, mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

"When the trees come down, we all know what happens to electricity and to the telephone lines," he said.

Sept. 11 pear tree falls
Among the trees that came down was one that survived the Sept. 11 attacks and was moved to a nursery at a Bronx park, according to city parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

The pear tree was pulled out of the ground and pushed over in the storm. Benepe said he expected the tree to be saved.

The storm led to near-record numbers of 911 calls in New York City, which experienced the second-highest volume of 911 calls ever. It got 65,000 calls between 11 p.m. Friday and 11 p.m. Saturday, second only to the 96,000 calls made during the 2003 blackout.

In the Highlands section of White Plains, The O'Sullivan Brothers landscaping firm was dealing with side-by-side 50-foot oaks that fell into side-by side homes.

One house, which was vacant when the tree fell Saturday night, had a deep cleft in the roof and undoubtedly significant water damaged inside.

The other had a smaller scar in the roof and had its whitewashed stone chimney knocked away by the tree.

Shawn Kovach and her two children watched the work Monday from the front yard across the street as the tree cutters managed to take down 20-foot boughs without further damaging the homes.

Kovach said she was looking at the damage from the first tree when she heard the snapping of tree roots as the second oak went down.

"It was very traumatic to see that happen," she said.

"Thank goodness no one was home. That's the little girl's bedroom, where it hit."

Video: When forces align Regina Janicki, a cosmetologist who works at home in North White Plains, had been without power since Saturday and was especially frustrated because she also lost power for 48 hours in a snowstorm last month.

"I have to keep going out to my car to recharge my phone and my DVD player," she said.

"I spent $150 on candles. My husband went to work in an un-ironed shirt."

In low-lying Bound Brook, N.J., site of several major floods in the past decade, Mayor Carey Pilato credited a $100 million flood control project, begun after the remnants of Hurricane Floyd caused major flooding in 1999, with sparing a six-block area of the town that had been hit hard then and during a nor'easter in 2007.

Mark Wilson, director of a soccer academy that sits in the middle of Bound Brook's hardest-hit area, said the first-floor carpets were damaged and the basement was filled with water.

Still, he said, this round of flooding paled in comparison with 2007, when his company was in the middle of renovating.

"We had 4 feet of water throughout the whole building and under that was a half-inch of river silt," he said.

"There was a certain degree of faith that it wasn't going to happen again, and here we are three years later. But it's definitely a big improvement."

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Video: East Coast left flooded and dark

  1. Closed captioning of: East Coast left flooded and dark

    >> see.

    >>> we'll begin with the dangerous flooding brought on by days of rain here in the northeast. the weather channel 's julie martin is just outside of boston in billricca, massachusetts.

    >> reporter: the people of massachusetts finally getting a chance to dry out after four days of rain. many rivers are well up over their banks, and the consequences are in the streets. you can see here dozens of homes and businesses pretty much under water. this scenario is playing out all over the northeast and new england right now as a result of, as i mentioned, four straight days with as much as nine inches delivered to some parts of this state in particular. so it is going to take some time for people to start to dry out. fortunately, the river situation is going to be getting better over the next day or so. most of the rivers have now crested. the skies are clear but once again, we're talking about flooding, so it is going to be quite a process for the people here to begin to clean up. i do want to take you now live to wayne, new jersey. this is an area that was also hit hard by the weekend storm. 44-mile-an-hour gusts now down to about 20, but 60% of the rivers there are also flooding at this point. power has been a major issue with this storm as well. as many as half a million folks without power as a result of this storm. certainly some widespread effects. the governor of massachusetts has declared a state of emergency that goes for rhode island and connecticut as well. once again, it is going to take some time to start to get back to normal, get all this water out of here and start to dry out here in the northeast.

    >> only then can they really assess the damage. julie martin , thank you very much. we'll have more on the weather

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