- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 27, 2010

PORTLAND, Maine — At least 250,000 homes and businesses are still without power Sunday as restoration efforts continue days after a slow-moving storm battered the Northeast with heavy snow, rain and high winds.

More than a million utility customers throughout the region lost power at the peak of the storm. Nearly 100,000 utility customers still lacked electricity in New Hampshire, the hardest-hit state. New York had about 96,000 outages and Maine 36,000.

Smaller outage numbers were reported in other states as hundreds of utility crews continued removing trees that knocked down power lines and replacing utility poles that snapped during the storm that crossed the region Thursday and Friday.

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. Mrs. Letteney, 64, of Allenstown, arrived Friday night with her 66-year-old husband, who is a paraplegic; two granddaughters; her grandson-in-law; and a 6-month-old great-grandson.

The family left their mobile home when the temperature dropped to 46 degrees and Mrs. Letteney’s hands had gone numb. They left 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,” Mrs. Letteney said.

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,” Chief 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. Ms. 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 to keep her radio operating.

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. Mr. 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.

Associated Press writer Kathy McCormack contributed to this report.

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