Outages could last days due to ‘wet cement’ snow
HARTFORD, Conn. — Millions of Northeasterners who lost power over the weekend were told they might have to wait several more days due to the storm that delivered snow so heavy that one utility expert likened it to “wet cement.”
Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren had one of the earliest snow days in memory Monday after the storm dumped as much as 30 inches of snow onto trees and power lines, causing widespread power failures and even canceling or postponing Halloween trick-or-treating.
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Communities from Maryland to Maine that suffered through a tough winter last year followed by a series of floods and storms went into now-familiar emergency mode as shelters opened, inaccessible roads closed, regional transit was suspended or delayed, and local leaders urged caution.
The storm’s lingering effects likely will outlast the snow.
“It was like wet cement that just adhered to trees, branches, leaves and power lines,” said David Graves, spokesman for utility National Grid.
“That’s what really caused the damage, the weight of that snow,” he said.
The unseasonably early nor’easter had utility companies struggling to restore electricity to more than 3 million homes and businesses. By early Monday, the number of customers without power had dipped to around 2.2 million and continued falling.
But officials in some states warned it could be days or even a week before residents have power again, even though crews have been brought in from as far away as Michigan and Canada.
“What a storm, my power is still out!” said a Monday morning Twitter post from Mass. Sen. Scott Brown about his Wrentham, Mass., home.
“We are in full restoration mode,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts.
Trees, branches and power lines still littered roads and rail lines throughout the region, leading to a tough Monday morning commute for many. The ice was responsible for several accidents in the Philadelphia area on Monday morning, according to Philly.com.
In New Jersey, suspensions remained in effect on several New Jersey Transit train lines into New York City, while in Connecticut, 100 state roads were closed and about 200 more partially closed, Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy said.
‘No gas anywhere’
In Hartford, Conn., commuters hunted for open gas stations. At a 7-Eleven, two dozen cars waited early Monday in a line that stretched into the street and disrupted traffic.
“I’m sitting here thinking I’m going to run out of gas,” said Mitchell Celella, 45, of Canaan, Conn., who was trying to make it to his job as an ice cream maker in West Hartford.
Debra Palmisano said everything was closed in her hometown of Plainville; she spent most of the morning looking for gas around the capital city.
“There’s no gas anywhere. It’s like we’re in a war zone. It’s pretty scary, actually,” she said.
Some local officials canceled or postponed Halloween activities, fearful that young trick-or-treaters could wander into areas with downed power lines or trees ready to topple over. Many towns around the state have moved the festivities to later in week, Boston.com reported.
“This is an historic storm,” said Malloy told The Hartford Courant. “This is the largest number of power outages we have ever experienced.”
More than 800,000 lost power in Connecticut and by Monday, 750,000 people still had no power.
Malloy himself has power at the governor’s mansion but he said that Attorney General George Jepsen, who lives across the street, does not, the Courant reported.
A weekend that should have brought activity no more strenuous than raking colorful autumn leaves left Northeasterners weather-weary.
“You had this storm, you had Hurricane Irene, you had the flooding last spring and you had the nasty storms last winter,” Tom Jacobsen said Sunday while getting coffee at a convenience store in Hamilton Township, N.J. “I’m starting to think we really ticked off Mother Nature somehow because we’ve been getting spanked by her for about a year now.”
No ‘quick fix’
The storm smashed record snowfall totals for October and worsened as it moved north. Communities in western Massachusetts were among the hardest hit. Snowfall totals topped 27 inches in Plainfield, and nearby Windsor got 26 inches.
The snowstorm was blamed for at least 12 deaths, and states of emergency were declared in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and parts of New York.
“Look at this, look at all the damage,” said Jennifer Burckson, 49, after she came outside Sunday morning in South Windsor to find a massive tree branch had smashed her car’s back windshield. Trees in the neighborhood snapped in half, with others weighed down so much that the leaves brushed the snow.