Thousands Still in Dark Days After Storm

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Douglas Fetkowitz
    Here are some pictures from around town. Most of Ridgewood (NJ) is without power and you can see why.

    A three-day rainstorm that flooded basements and roadways and ripped trees out of the soaking wet ground was among the most devastating ever to the electrical grid in some parts of the Northeast.

    New Jersey's Public Service Electric & Gas said the weekend storm was the worst in its history, causing outages to more than 420,000 customers. At the peak, the number of outages for Consolidated Edison, which powers New York City and some northern suburbs, was the worst since Hurricane Gloria in 1985, spokesman Chris Olert said.

    At least 11 people died in storm-related accidents, and nearly a half-million people lost power at the peak of the storm in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Governors from New Jersey to Massachusetts were seeking federal assistance to help defray cleanup costs.

    On Tuesday -- with skies clearing and the sun expected to shine,  bringing spring-like weather --  utility crews continued to chip away at the power outages. As of late Tuesday afternoon, 30,000 customers remained without power in New Jersey. In Connecticut, nearly 41,000 homes and businesses were in the dark Tuesday, down from a peak of more than 85,000.

    In the City and Westchester, 43,000 customers were still without power Tuesday afternnon.  Some 38,000 were in Westchester and another 3500 in Staten Island.

    In Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said the Tuesday morning commute on one trolley line was being hindered by washed-out track. The agency was using buses instead.

    The rain forced the closure of some shellfishing beds in Rhode Island. And Cincinnati was preparing for minor flooding from the Ohio River, which is swollen from heavy rain and melting snow.

    The storm, packing near-hurricane-force winds and heavy rain, toppled trees throughout the Northeast from Saturday through Monday. Thousands of trees fell in New York City alone, mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

    "When the trees come down, we all know what happens to electricity and to the telephone lines," he said.

    Among the trees that came down was one that survived the Sept. 11 attacks and was moved to a nursery at a Bronx park, according to city parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. The pear tree was pulled out of the ground and pushed over in the storm. Benepe said he expected the tree to be saved.

    In the Highlands section of White Plains, The O'Sullivan Brothers landscaping firm was dealing with side-by-side 50-foot oaks that fell into side-by side homes.

    One house, which was vacant when the tree fell Saturday night, had a deep cleft in the roof and undoubtedly significant water damaged inside. The other had a smaller scar in the roof and had its whitewashed stone chimney knocked away by the tree.

    Shawn Kovach and her two children watched the work Monday from the front yard across the street as the tree cutters managed to take down 20-foot boughs without further damaging the homes. Kovach said she was looking at the damage from the first tree when she heard the snapping of tree roots as the second oak went down.

    "It was very traumatic to see that happen," she said. "Thank goodness no one was home. That's the little girl's bedroom, where it hit."

    Regina Janicki, a cosmetologist who works at home in North White Plains, had been without power since Saturday, and was especially frustrated because she also lost power for 48 hours in a snowstorm last month.

    "I have to keep going out to my car to recharge my phone and my DVD player," she said. "I spent $150 on candles. My husband went to work in an un-ironed shirt."

    In low-lying Bound Brook, N.J., site of several major floods in the past decade, Mayor Carey Pilato credited a $100 million flood control project, begun after the remnants of Hurricane Floyd caused major flooding in 1999, with sparing a six-block area of the town that had been hit hard then and during a nor'easter in 2007.

    Mark Wilson, director of a soccer academy that sits in the middle of Bound Brook's hardest-hit area, said the first-floor carpets were damaged and the basement was filled with water. Still, he said, this round of flooding paled in comparison with 2007, when his company was in the middle of renovating.

    "We had 4 feet of water throughout the whole building, and under that was a half-inch of river silt," he said. "There was a certain degree of faith that it wasn't going to happen again, and here we are three years later. But it's definitely a big improvement."

    The storm claimed at least eight lives including:

    *A New Jersey woman was killed and three others were injured in Westport, Conn., after a tree fell on a car Saturday night during the storm, police said. Another woman died when a tree struck her as she was walking in Greenwich, Conn., they said.
     
    *In the suburb of Teaneck, N.J., two neighbors were killed by a falling tree as they headed home from a prayer service at a synagogue. In Hartsdale, N.Y., another suburb, a man was killed when a large tree crushed the roof of his car and entangled it in live wires.
     
    *A 73-year-old woman was killed by a falling tree while walking to her car in Bay Shore, N.Y. Three people tried to save the Brooklyn woman.

    The damage to homes and cars was severe.  Thousands of trees were uprooted, some falling on roofs, cars and roadways. Beth Sorrentino saw her New Jersey home flood.  "We just moved here a month and a half ago and we're underwater, its ridiculous," she told NBCNewYork.

    Driving and train travel became treacherous and hundreds of flights were delayed at area airports.

    Various utilities in the region have advised residents to keep boiling drinking water until further notice.

    The storm, which carried wind gusts of up to 70 mph, came about two weeks after heavy snow and hurricane-force winds left more than 1 million customers in the Northeast in the dark.

    "I spent most of the past few months clearing snow and ice out my driveway, sidewalks, front walks, and now we're picking up all these branches," Jack Alexander said Sunday as he and his family worked to clear debris from the front yard of their Egg Harbor City home.

    "It seems like we've had every type of weather event you could have this winter — I'm almost afraid to see what else can happen."