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Thousands in dark week after nor'easter

The snow is largely gone from a pre-Halloween nor'easter, but trees, wires and other debris remain as utility companies work to restore electricity to thousands.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The snow is largely gone from a pre-Halloween nor'easter, but trees, wires and other debris remain as utility companies work to restore electricity to thousands of homes and businesses that have been without power for a week.

Connecticut Light & Power missed a restoration goal Saturday but said it is still on track to have power back to 99 percent of its customers by midnight Sunday.

At a Saturday morning news conference, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said 215,000 homes and businesses remained in the dark, NBC station WVIT reported.

"I’m not happy, but I don’t have the power to seize that company," Malloy said, noting CL&P had fallen short of its goal.

Saturday night, Malloy said "I'm becoming increasingly skeptical by the hour" that CL&P would make its midnight Sunday goal.

The utility reported about 176,000 customers without power by early evening Saturday. That was down from about 300,000 on Friday and 830,000 at the peak of the outages.

However, the Hartford Courant reported, a dozen Connecticut towns from Farmington to Union remained mostly cold and dark.

The outages have driven thousands of people into shelters in New England and have led to several deaths, including eight in Connecticut.

"We're making progress," the CL&P's chief operating officer, Jeffrey Butler, said Saturday, adding that customers who pay their October bills late won't be charged a fee.

He also said the utility must do a better job communicating about changing conditions.

The company had more than 2,140 tree and line crews working in the state Saturday, that’s an additional 346 crews from Friday, WVIT said.

Malloy also said 425 National Guard members were helping to clear roads in a variety of towns.

Butler said Saturday night he was certain the utility would meet its deadline with a major push on Sunday.

Avon town manager Brandon Robertson said he faulted CL&P for an "absolutely unacceptable and completely avoidable" situation leaving 85 percent of the town without power. The high school that is being used as an emergency shelter was still running on a generator, he said. Although public works crews had cleared most of the town roads, he said, more than 25 still were blocked as they waited for CL&P crews to clear power lines.

"Our residents are angry. We're angry," he said. "It's just really shocking."

Malloy on Friday announced that James Lee Witt, former FEMA director, will lead an independent investigation into utility companies' responses to the October nor'easter.

To the north, Western Massachusetts Electric Co. reported more than 11,000 customers out of 212,000 remained without power Saturday evening in its greater Springfield coverage areas.

Children on Newton Road in Springfield built a snowman to warn drivers of downed wires because no one else has, reported NBC station WWLP.

Marcos Rodriguez of Springfield told WWLP, "We had a couple close calls that people just come shooting down, but most of the people around the block know the cables are down, but there are obviously new people that come down and delivery guys and it's as safety issue."

Power lines are still hanging a week after the snow storm hit and neighbors in an East Forest Park neighborhood say they feel like they're always the last one to get power restored.

"I don't know the facts of why it takes so long, but I know that during the tornado my street was one of the last streets to get power and now my street is the last street to get power and you feel a little bit displaced when you've got to move around," Richard Circosta told WWLP. Tornadoes killed four people and caused heavy damage in the Springfield area June 1.

In Westfield, Mass., Jimmie D. Wiggs, head of emergency management, said about 99 percent of residents had power restored by Saturday evening, but the remaining houses darkened by the storm will be slow-going, the Springfield Republican newspaper reported.

"It's one at a time now. I would say 150 or 200 are still without power," Wiggs said, adding that only one person remained at an emergency shelter at Westfield State University.

West Springfield contracted with a private company to remove of storm debris, but the operation could take six weeks, Mayor Edward Gibson told the Republican. 

In North Brookfield, Mass., an 86-year-old woman was found dead Thursday in her unheated home, and her 59-year-old son was taken to a hospital with symptoms of hypothermia, subnormal body temperature. The local fire chief said it was unfortunate they had not reached out to authorities or neighbors for help.

In New Jersey, authorities said fumes from a gasoline-powered generator are believed to have caused the deaths of an elderly couple discovered hours before electricity was restored to their home in rural Milford, near Pennsylvania, on Thursday evening.