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By Scott DiSavino and Cezary Podkul
NEW YORK, Nov 7 (Reuters) - U.S. power companies said Wednesday the nor'easter whipping across the Mid-Atlantic knocked out power to additional homes and businesses and slowed their efforts to restore service to those left in the dark by Hurricane Sandy nine days ago.
Utilities from the Carolinas to New England reported that the nor'easter had knocked out service to at least 22,000 additional customers by Wednesday afternoon, federal data showed.
Some 650,000 homes and businesses were already without power Wednesday morning in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia due to Sandy, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said in a report.
Now the DOE said 672,000 customers were out in seven states, adding nor'easter related outages in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to the ongoing Sandy related outages.
"We had about 15,000 new outages so far due to the nor'easter," John Bruckner, President, Long Island Electric Transmission & Distribution Services for National Grid PLC , said Wednesday. National Grid operates the electric system on Long Island for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).
Before the nor'easter struck the region, National Grid and LIPA had hoped to restore power to about 90 percent of the customers affected by Sandy who could take power.
"We still have a great chance of making that," LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey said at the conference.
Hervey and Bruckner however explained that about 100,000 customers, primarily on the South Shore of Long Island, would have to be inspected for water damage and possibly repaired before LIPA can turn the lights on because those homes and businesses were in the zone that suffered from the storm surge.
LIPA said it has already restored power to almost 800,000 of the more than 1 million homes and businesses knocked out by Sandy, leaving about 171,000 still waiting to have their power restored.
The rain, snow and heavy winds from the nor'easter were causing more headaches for New York and New Jersey towns that still had outages. Trees slammed into power lines, knocking out service for some customers who may have already had their power restored, utilities said.
"The new storm could delay customer restorations. Crews repairing overhead lines and equipment cannot work in high winds," New York power company Consolidated Edison Inc said Wednesday.
Con Edison said its crews would receive more help on Wednesday when 300 mutual aid workers arrive, bringing the company's restoration workforce to more than 3,000 utility workers.
In the town of Pelham in Westchester County, next to New York City, Town Supervisor Peter DiPaola voiced worries about the impact the storm would have on some residents still lacking power.
"It's coming up on ten days with people being freezing in their homes," he said. About 42,000 Con Edison customers in Westchester County remained without power as of Wednesday, according to the company's website.
DiPaola said restoration in Pelham was slowed by a shortage of transformers. But Con Edison, LIPA and the utilities in New Jersey all denied rumors that they were suffering from a shortage of poles, wires, transformers or other power equipment.
In New Jersey, power company Public Service Enterprise Group Inc, which has the most customers still without service, said it expects to continue restoring power to the remaining 185,000 customers out despite the nor'easter.
While work may continue in the rain, PSEG said federal safety rules prevent line crews from working in bucket trucks when winds are greater than 40 miles per hour (64 kph).
There have been reports of wind gusts from the nor'easter at over 60 mph, according to weather forecaster AccuWeather.com.
If restoration efforts have to stop because of the winds, PSEG said, "Crews will resume work when it is safe to do so."
Like other utilities, PSEG said its crews were working 16-hour days, with mandated rest periods and meal breaks. The New Jersey utility said it had secured an additional 600 line workers from Pennsylvania, bringing the total to more than 4,600 workers on the ground.
Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on the night of Oct. 29, affecting about 8.48 million customers in 21 states. Before the nor'easter hit the New York-New Jersey area, the Department of Energy said the region's power companies had restored service to about 320,000 customers over the prior 24 hours.