HOUSTON (Reuters) - More than 3 million homes and businesses remained without power in eight states on Tuesday after Hurricane Ike, federal officials said.
Those in the Midwest are expected to be reconnected within days, while many Texans will have to wait weeks, according to utility companies commanding armies of employees working around the clock.
The biggest utility in Houston, the metropolitan area with the most outages, made significant progress by Tuesday. CenterPoint Energy said it had restored 667,000 customers with electric service, leaving about 1.5 million homes and businesses without refrigeration, air-conditioning, and roads without traffic signals.
More than 2.1 million CenterPoint customers, or 99 percent, lost power after the storm made landfall early on Saturday. CenterPoint has warned that it may take weeks to reconnect all customers.
About 3.9 million customers in eight states were without power Tuesday morning because of Ike, the U.S. Department of Energy reported. That figure was issued before CenterPoint and Midwestern utilities updated reconnection figures.
More than half of the DOE total was for outages in Texas — more than 2 million — and Ohio was next, with about 1 million outages, the DOE said.
Ike caused the largest single power outage in Texas, according to state regulators. Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday issued an order allowing utilities to construct temporary electric connections to speed return of power to critical infrastructure like hospitals and water pumping stations.
Elected officials in many Texas coastal communities have urged citizens to stay away from storm-damaged areas until power and essential services are available.
Entergy Texas, which serves Beaumont and Southeast Texas, said power had been restored to 22,000 of the 391,000 customers that lost power after the storm. As with CenterPoint, about 99 percent of Entergy Texas customers were without power at the peak of the outages on Sunday night.
Customers in Ohio (1 million), Kentucky (356,000), Indiana (85,000), Pennsylvania (60,000) and New York (33,000) were without power on Tuesday morning, the DOE said.
Nearer to Texas, about 60,000 customers in Louisiana and 33,500 in Arkansas remained without power on Tuesday morning, the DOE said.
Duke Energy said it was not able to deliver power to about 560,000 customers in Ohio and Kentucky, down from almost 1 million out on Sunday night.
FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said about 250,000 customers in Ohio and western Pennsylvania remained without power, down from about 1 million on Sunday night. While most customers will be reconnected soon, some may not get power until the weekend, Durbin said.
Ike covered more area than any hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After striking Texas, Ike barreled north and east. Winds remained strong enough to fell branches on power lines which cut power.
Reporting by Eileen O'Grady and Bernie Woodall, editing by Matthew Lewis