Power outages plague Northeast residents

CONWAY, Mass Thu Nov 3, 2011 2:56pm EDT

1 of 20. An electric company worker uses a blow torch to repair power lines in Larchmont, New York October 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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CONWAY, Mass (Reuters) - Three-quarters of a million people from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire remained without power on Thursday after a deadly October snowstorm pummeled the Northeast and caused widespread outages.

With temperatures sliding into the 20s at night, residents without electricity made do by running power sources such as generators and stoves or staying in shelters set up across the Mid-Atlantic and in New England.

Two more deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning were suspected, adding to a half dozen people in Massachusetts and Connecticut who have died in their homes from unvented toxic fumes from heating devices.

Neighbors of a 47-year-old man in Worcester, Massachusetts, told police he seemed to have perished from fumes from a generator running inside his home. The fatality came a day after two people died from fumes in Palmer, Massachusetts.

East Hartford, Connecticut, police were investigating the death of a 41-year-old woman discovered on Wednesday after apparently using a charcoal stove in her bedroom for heat.

"Never use a generator, charcoal or gas grill, gas lantern or camp stove inside or in enclosed areas, like a garage, even if doors are open," pleaded the Connecticut Department of Public Health in a Twitter message on Thursday.

The unseasonably wintry weather was blamed for about a dozen other fatalities, mostly on slippery roads.

On Thursday, some 427,000 Connecticut power customers, or 34 percent statewide, remained without electricity. Connecticut Light & Power said it estimated restoration would be complete by Sunday night -- more than a week after storm damage shut down power to nearly a million customers there.

Although many residents struggled without power, one lucky person was warmed by news he or she purchased the winning Powerball lottery ticket worth $254.2 million on Wednesday.

A "grand prize" ticket was sold at an unspecified retail location somewhere in Connecticut, the Powerball website said.

In Massachusetts, about 144,000 customers were without power, and state Attorney General Martha Coakley said she intends to launch a new investigation into utility companies' response to recent storms that have caused widespread outages.

Coakley's office has received "a variety of complaints" over the power restoration process, she said. The move comes on the heels of an earlier investigation into a December 2010 storm that led to a $2 million settlement with National Grid and a probe into preparedness and response in connection with Tropical Storm Irene.

Storms hitting the Northeast since summer's end already have forced temporary closings in school districts where some allotted so-called snow days have been used up before winter even starts.

Schools that shut after Hurricane Irene on August 28 and the storm last weekend were considering revamping their calendars. Some options are holding school on teachers' professional development days, extending days by an hour or adding school in June or on Saturdays.

At least 74,000 customers had no power in New Jersey. Outages also included some 65,000 customers in Pennsylvania, 36,000 in New Hampshire and at least 17,000 customers in New York.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)

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