Wind-whipped Northeast tackles power outages and downed trees after a stormy weekend

Monday, October 30th 2006, 6:17 am
By: News On 6

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Howling winds slicing across the Northeast tore into trees and power lines, plunging thousands of homes into the dark and contributing to least two deaths.

More than 100,000 utility customers throughout the region, including 44,000 in Maine and 38,000 in upstate New York, were left without power Sunday by winds gusting up to 60 mph.

"The leaves are coming off the trees and the voting signs are on the ground,'' said Dawn Banks, a resident of Mattydale in Onondaga County. The Halloween headstones on her lawn, each weighing between 10 to 15 pounds, were "blowing about pretty good,'' Banks said.

"In Massachusetts, Nantucket's 10,000 residents temporarily lost 911 service Sunday and thousands more in the state lost power. In Deerfield, a 58-year-old motorcyclist was killed by a downed tree," said police officer D.N. Bates.

In New Hampshire, one man was missing after falling off a cruise ship on Lake Winnipesaukee during the storm late Saturday, and one man drowned when his kayak overturned on a rain-swollen river, state officials said.

Meteorologist John Cristantello said the high winds were caused by a stronger-than-normal low pressure system that passed through Pennsylvania and New York on its way to southeastern Canada.

A 165-foot crane with a wrecking ball attached toppled in one of the most populous neighborhoods of Portland, Maine, falling on three houses. No injuries were reported.

The wrecking ball narrowly missed a passing car.

"The first thing I saw was the ball coming down really fast about 10 feet from us,'' said Colleen Mowatt, 48, whose boyfriend hit the brakes just in time. "It hit the roadway, and the rest of the crane just fell on the buildings in front of us.''

The winds caused problems at major airports, including Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where delays were reported all weekend.

In New Jersey's Washington Township, a couple was injured when a 150-foot tall oak tree fell through their home. Authorities said David Monahan, 48, and his wife, Denise, 43, both suffered head lacerations when the tree, which was between 4 and 5 feet in diameter, fell through their family room and a bedroom.

In upstate New York, the wind was combined with heavy lake-effect snow. Some 10 inches fell in Old Forge in Herkimer County by Sunday afternoon.

Andria DeLisle Heath, executive director of the American Red Cross Mohawk Valley Chapter, said blackouts were scattered and short in duration. "As power comes on in some places, it seems to go off in others,'' she said.

The weather observatory atop New Hampshire's 6,288-foot Mount Washington, famous for severe weather at almost any time of the year, reported sustained wind of 100 mph and a gust to 114 mph.