More than 3 million without power after East Coast storm [updated]

Snow

Heavy rain, snow and winds walloped the northeast this weekend, leaving 3.2 million people without power from Virginia to Maine and many more wondering: What happened to fall?

“It’s only October,” said Melissa Mack, a resident of Hartford, Conn. “We haven’t even finished the kids’ soccer season.”

Trees with their leaves colored by autumnal glory turned white from snow and became dangerous. The leaves gave the wet snow a landing pad, making branches so heavy that many of them came crashing down, bringing down tens of thousands of power lines with them.

The storm is being blamed for five deaths, including that of a Bronx grandmother who relied on an oxygen machine that shut down when her house lost power.

In the same way that Tropical Storm Irene disrupted power and travel, the nor’easter trapped people and forced many in the region to suspend their lives.

In Connecticut, for example, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had food and 900 cots sent to Bradley International Airport for stranded travelers. Flights were delayed or canceled all along the Eastern Seaboard and commuter trains in Connecticut and New York were delayed and suspended.

A record 820,000 Connecticut residents were without power Sunday. The previous record was set three months ago when Tropical Storm Irene cut summer short and left 750,000 without power, many for days.

And fall seemed forgotten, at least for the moment. The Northeast looked more like Christmas than Halloween.

“It’s just so wrong,” said Lily Meyersohn, 15, of Manhattan, where Central Park was briefly closed after a downed limb injured a woman. Across the city, parks officials received 1,000 calls about damaged trees.

Malloy said the historic storm could leave people without electricity for up to a week as utility companies scrambled to respond to 10,000 reports of power lines mangled by trees. He also said cellphones were affected, with AT&T reporting 164 towers out.

“We’re going to have extensive and long-term power outages,” Malloy said at a briefing Sunday. “… at least initially, some people could be without power for as much as a week.”

Six hospitals were operating with generators. State officials were trying to assess how many nursing homes were without power, Malloy said. He asked residents to clear their own property if they could but to stay away from power lines. “It’s very dangerous out there,” he said.

States of emergency were declared in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and parts of New York.

In New Jersey, the state’s largest utility, PSE&G, told customers that it might be Wednesday before power was fully restored. Across the state, more than 600,000 residents lost electricity.

Of all the regions, western Massachusetts was hit the hardest by snow, said Brian Korty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Maryland. Peru, a town of 800, accumulated 32 inches, he said.

By Sunday, there were flurries in Maine but mostly the storm had passed.

“What made the storm unusual was its breadth, the amount of area covered by heavy snow,” Korty said. “It’s historic.”

Deaths occurred in southeastern Pennsylvania, where a man napping in his recliner died after a tree limb came crashing through his roof, and in Springfield, Mass., where a man was electrocuted. Storm conditions contributed to two more deaths on the roads in Connecticut and New York. And Kheowla Ramprasad, 77, died around 8:45 p.m. Saturday at her home in the Bronx, police said. She apparently suffered from a heart condition and diabetes and had gone on oxygen support two weeks ago, her family told reporters.

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York 

Photo: There's frost on the pumpkins in Portsmouth, N.H., after a rare October snowstorm barreled up the U.S. East Coast. Credit: Adam Hunger / Reuters 

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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