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Utilities warn that power could be out for days in Northeast

A passersby on Brooklyn side of the East River faces the rain and clouds as they loom over lower Manhattan on the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
October 30, 2017 - 2:02 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. - A severe storm packing hurricane-force wind gusts and soaking rain swept through the Northeast early Monday, knocking out power for nearly 1.5 million homes and businesses and forcing hundreds of schools to close in New England.

Falling trees knocked down power lines across the region, and some utility companies warned customers that power could be out for days. Trees also fell onto homes and vehicles, but no serious injuries were reported.

New England got the brunt of the storm, which brought sustained winds of up to 50 mph in spots. A gust of 130 mph was reported at the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire, while winds hit 82 mph in Mashpee on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The storm left 450,000 New Hampshire residents without power at its peak and produced wind gusts of 78 mph, emergency officials said. Emergency Management Director Perry Plummer said the outage was the state's fourth largest.

Maine also was hit hard, with 492,000 homes and businesses losing electricity, surpassing the peak number from an infamous 1998 ice storm. The Portland International Jetport recorded a wind gust of 69 mph, and the Amtrak Downeaster service cancelled a morning run due to down trees on the tracks.

Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage issued a state of emergency proclamation, allowing drivers of electrical line repair vehicles to work more hours than federal law allows to speed up power restoration.

In Freeport, Maine, Rachel Graham, her husband and their 2-year-old daughter, Priya, endured the storm in a yurt, where they are staying while building a house on their property. They listened as 20 pine trees on their property snapped and wind lashed the yurt.

"It was really terrifying. You could feel everything and hear everything," Graham said. "It was a lot of crashes and bangs."

The storm began making its way up the East Coast on Sunday, the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. That 2012 storm devastated the nation's most populous areas and was blamed for at least 182 deaths in the U.S. and the Caribbean and more than $71 billion in damage in this country alone.

Electricity was slowly being restored. As of late Monday afternoon, more than 1.2 million people were still without power in the Northeast, according to a tally of outages from utility companies in more than a half-dozen states.

In the Boston suburb of Brookline, Helene Dunlap said her power went out after she heard a loud "kaboom" around 1:30 a.m. Monday. She went outside hours later to find a large tree had fallen on a neighbouring home.

"It really shook the whole place up," she said. "It was such a dark, stormy night that looking out the window we really couldn't determine what was going on."

A tree fell and sheared off the rear of a home in Methuen in northeastern Massachusetts, along the New Hampshire line. The tree crashed into Philip Cole's bedroom, where he would have been if he hadn't been called into work Sunday night.

"You opened the door to my bedroom, and there's no bedroom," Cole told WBZ-TV. "There's no floor, there's no anything really, just a closet and that was it."

In Glastonbury, Connecticut, downed trees and wires forced schools to close.

"Just high, high, high winds," said Glastonbury resident Kathleen Buccheri, who lost power. "I saw flashes of light and heard booms. I think it was the transformers."

She said she stocked up on food and other supplies when she heard the storm was coming.

Some rivers in New Hampshire overflowed. For a brief period Monday, the Ammonoosuc River flooded, restricting access to the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods.

In Plainfield, Vermont, the Maplefields convenience store had no power, so workers used a propane stove to make coffee.

The storm system also caused problems Sunday in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. On the shoreline in Bayonne, New Jersey, a barge washed up after apparently breaking free from its moorings.

In New York, the rush hour got off to a rocky start as service on Metro-North's Danbury Branch in Connecticut was suspended due to a mudslide and signal power problems. Part of the Long Island Rail Road's Ronkonkoma Branch was halted because of power lines on the tracks. Unhappy commuters crowded a station.

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Associated Press writers Mark Pratt and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Patrick Whittle and David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vermont; and Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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