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Nearly half a million customers still in the dark after latest nor'easter

Anger grew as utility crews struggled to restore service after the latest storm to wallop the Eastern Seaboard.
Image: Northeast power outages
An Upton Department of Public Works employee uses a chainsaw to cut up fallen tree limbs on Thursday in Upton, Massachusetts.Steven Senne / AP

Nearly half a million customers along the East Coast were still in the dark Friday morning, growing increasingly angry with utility crews struggling to restore service after the latest nor'easter.

About 448,800 customers from Maryland to Maine were powerless two days after the second storm in less than a week pummeled the region. Some of them, without electricity since last week's nor'easter, woke up to an eighth day of being in cold, dark houses.

In Westchester County, New York, where many of the tens of thousands without electricity were warned that power may not be restored until the end of the weekend, County Executive George Latimer called for the heads of New York electric and gas companies to resign.

"They failed to respond. They failed to come out to look at the situation. They failed to communicate accurately and properly with people," a furious Latimer told "Today."

Con Edison said it was working to clear downed trees on more than 200 roads in Westchester County so it could restore electric power.

A spokesman for the utility, Sidney Alvarez, said restoration was taking so long because "the two storms were extremely severe."

"The first came in, knocked a whole bunch of people out of power, and we had to get them back in service, and that was challenging because of all the big trees and vegetation on our lines," Alvarez said. "Then the second nor'easter comes in and the exact same thing happens."

Because Con Edison's overhead system was inundated with fallen trees after the first storm, he added, restoration was already a complex, dangerous task for the utility's workers.

"It did a lot of damage to our overhead system," he said.

Wednesday's deadly storm dumped heavy snow — more than 2 feet in some areas — on the Northeast, knocking down trees and power lines.

Image::Image: Northeast power outages|APCrew members from the Pike electric company pull a downed power line on Thursday in Aston, Pennsylvania.
Crew members from the Pike electric company pull a downed power line on Thursday in Aston, Pennsylvania.Michael Bryant / AP

It caused at least two deaths: In Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, a man was burned to death when he drove over a downed wire in his SUV, and in Suffern, New York, an 88-year-old woman was killed by a falling tree, according to police.

The focus Friday was on restoring power before anyone else became endangered. The National Guard deployed 40 workers to New York, and 70 workers from across the Midwest to New Jersey to help.

Massachusetts had the most customers affected: Nearly 170,000 were still powerless Friday morning. Next was New Jersey, with more than 109,000 customers.

Frustrated customers fumed on Twitter after receiving word from New Jersey utility PSE&G that power would not be restored until this weekend.

"I have 3 kids (ages 3, 5 & 7) — one of whom is special needs — and an elderly woman living in my house and you’re saying 11:45 PM on SATURDAY?! It is 48 degrees in my house right now & I have nowhere to go. No power. No hot water. So PLEASE tell me what to do. UNACCEPTABLE!!!" wrote one.

And the need to get electricity back up and running became even more urgent after forecasters warned of yet another nor'easter brewing for early next week.

"It hasn't formed yet. We've got this one system that's coming out of Texas," said "Today" show meteorologist Al Roker, cautioning that different models projected different paths for it — one that brings heavy rains and two storms offshore, and another that brings a single system up the coast as a "classic nor'easter Monday night and early Tuesday morning."

"We're going to just have to wait and see," Roker added, saying the models would come into a closer focus this weekend.