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As storm recovery moves ahead, Halloween is left behind

October 31, 2011 |  3:35 pm

Downed power lines

Whatever the equivalent of the Grinch who stole Christmas, he was gobbling up Halloween on Monday for many children in the Northeast.

Following the freak October storm that brought down tens of thousands of power lines over the weekend, more than a million residents in the region were still without electricity late Monday. And communities were canceling not just schools on Tuesday, but Monday's planned trick-or-treating.

Even Connecticut’s Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced he wouldn’t be handing out candy at the governor's mansion. He had recommended that the state’s mayors and municipal leaders make their own decisions about Halloween celebrations, but Malloy said he would follow the lead of Hartford's mayor, who had discouraged trick-or-treating.

"No amount of candy is worth a potentially serious or even fatal accident," said Malloy, explaining that almost half of Hartford was still without power.

The threat of more falling limbs and potentially live electrical wires strewn in areas where young goblins and ghosts might stray had raised concerns in hard-hit areas. Officials in Worcester, Mass., asked to have Halloween postponed until Thursday, and the New Hampshire communities of Manchester and Nashua rescheduled candy collecting until Sunday.

The schedule changes came after the weekend's classic nor’easter -- a storm that pummeled states from Virginia to Maine with rain, snow and high winds. Initially, more than 3 million residents had no power. But utility crews were out moving tree limbs and repairing lines, and by late Monday the number without power was reduced to about a million.

"It was like wet cement that just adhered to trees, branches, leaves and power lines," David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid, told Reuters. "That's what really caused the damage, the weight of that snow."

At least nine deaths were attributed to the storm, most caused by cars crashing on icy roads.

During a Monday news briefing, an official of Connecticut Light and Power warned residents that it could be up to a week before service is restored to everyone.

Airports and commuter trains were mostly back on normal schedules, with minor delays. But hundreds of roads were still blocked by fallen trees.

In New Jersey, areas that were just coming back from Tropical Storm Irene were again hammered by weather and left with no power. Families in Pompton Lakes and nearby Wayne who had just returned to living in their homes two weeks ago and who had just restocked their freezers said that the food was rotting now that they were again without power, the Associated Press reported.

About 400,000 customers in New Jersey had no electricity Monday afternoon, according to the state’s governor, Chris Christie, who said during a news conference that he expected it would be restored to all customers by Thursday.

The storm forced some New Jersey residents out of their homes and to scramble to find food and shelter. In Hackensack, for example, people were camped out in the gymnasium of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“Since I came here it’s been crisis,” Hossam Shahin, a 19-year-old student from Egypt, told the Associated Press. “First earthquake, then hurricane, now snowstorm. Everything is strange and weird because we never had hurricane and snow storm in Egypt.”

He also probably never had Halloween, never mind having it canceled.

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: Downed power lines in North Andover, Mass. Credit: Elise Amendola / Associated Press

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