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Northeast Storm Recovery Continues

Updated:
PORTLAND, Maine (AP)_ Utility crews cut their way through downed trees Wednesday to restore service to thousands of customers still without power since the huge weekend storm battered the East Coast.

Communities from New Jersey to Maine were still coping with stream flooding caused by the storm, which dumped more than 8 inches of rain in places, along with coastal flooding brought on by astronomical high tides and heavy surf.

Seventeen deaths were blamed on the weather system.

More than 50,000 businesses and residences remained without power Wednesday in Maine, where Central Maine Power Co. was being helped by repair crews from neighboring New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and as far away as Pennsylvania.

Utility officials warned that some people might be without power until the end of the week.

``It's a huge number of trees that are down, so it's a big job cutting those away,'' said CMP spokesman John Carroll. ``Plus there are 250 broken poles. That's an enormous number of poles.''

Utilities in New Hampshire reported nearly 19,000 homes and businesses still had no electricity Wednesday and said some might not be reconnected until the weekend.

In many areas, road damage and fallen trees blocked repair crews' access, said New Hampshire Electric Cooperative spokesman Seth Wheeler.

``There are 18 different tree crews we've hired ... just clearing trees first before the line crews can get in there and do construction,'' Wheeler said.

More than 80 New Hampshire roads remained closed by high water or damage, said Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton. Most were expected to be reopened soon, but it could take weeks to repair landslide damage to Route 101 in Wilton, he said.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch had asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to start a preliminary damage assessment in all 10 counties to determine the state's eligibility for federal disaster relief. ``Many New Hampshire communities have been overwhelmed by all the flooding,'' he said.

Swollen rivers in Massachusetts were receding but waves still crashed over sea walls and flooded coastal roads early Wednesday, authorities said.

Two families were evacuated at their own request from oceanfront homes in Duxbury, Mass., late Tuesday but were able to return Wednesday morning, fire Capt. Skip Chandler said. Their homes had knee-deep water on the ground floor, he said. ``Thank goodness it wasn't worse,'' he said.

Most roads had reopened in the suburbs north of New York City, as homeowners in Westchester County piled water-ruined carpets and furniture in heaps outside.

On Fire Island, the barrier island along the south side of New York's Long Island, some homes were clinging to narrow beaches atop rickety pilings because the storm's waves had scoured the sand out from beneath them.

``There's nothing I can do,'' said homeowner Bill Raymond, 55. ``You've got to keep your fingers crossed.''
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