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Northeast Snowstorm Power Problems: Tens Of Thousands Still Without Electricity

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NORTHEAST SNOWSTORM POWER PROBLEMS
Connecticut Light & Power workers tend to a high voltage power line in Windsor Locks, Conn., Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011. Over 90% of the town has been without power since the October 29, 2011 snowstorm. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) | AP

HARTFORD, Conn. — Tens of thousands in the chilly Northeast remained without power Sunday, eight days after a rare October snowstorm knocked much of the region into the dark.

Many spent another day without lights or heat, lingering at shopping malls, hitting the movies or bunking at friends' homes as they faced the possibility of another day without power.

The storm, which hit Oct. 29 and 30, hammered the Northeast and cut electricity to more than 3 million homes and businesses throughout the region. Many communities postponed trick-or-treating for youngsters.

At a news conference Sunday night in hardest-hit Connecticut, the state's largest utility announced that it wouldn't meet its goal of restoring power to 99 percent of its 1.2 million customers.

Jeffrey Butler, chief operating officer for Connecticut Light & Power, apologized, saying that about 88,000 customers still remained without electricity and that it would probably be Wednesday before everyone had power restored. About 6,000 of the outages were new and unrelated to the freak October snowstorm that cut power to 800,000 Connecticut residents, he said.

New Jersey and Massachusetts each had a few hundred customers still waiting for the lights to come back on, and utilities there expected to have power restored by midnight.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has launched an independent probe of the utility companies' response amid a torrent of customer complaints, including a local fire department that said CL&P jeopardized safety by not quickly clearing roads of downed power lines and tree limbs.

Malloy said he assigned state Attorney General George Jepsen to work with a consulting group that would investigate the storm outage response.

"I want to ensure the state preserves its legal options on behalf of itself and on behalf of Connecticut utility customers," Malloy said. "I'm not prejudging anything, but it's clear that CL&P's response to this storm has been inadequate."

Malloy added that the general election Tuesday remains on track, but some municipalities might consolidate voting at locations with electricity if other polling places were still in the dark.

In Somers, a northern Connecticut town on the Massachusetts border, First Selectman Lisa Pellegrini said a team of supervised crews of minimum-security inmates from nearby state prisons were dispatched to clear town property of trees, limbs and other debris so power restoration could move more quickly.

She said CL&P president Butler called her Saturday, but wasn't confident then that the utility would have most of the power restored by Sunday night.

"(Butler) asked me how I was doing and I said, `Pretty lousy, but I think you're having a worse day than I am,'" Pellegrini said.

Some still without power turned to Facebook, Twitter and email to express their frustration. A few were especially unsympathetic to Butler. A Facebook post Sunday with the utility president's picture read: "Rumors that my gold-plated residential backup generator runs on the refined tears of orphan children are totally unfounded."

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