High wind knocks out power for thousands in sections of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states

Sunday, October 29th 2006, 9:16 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) -- Thousands of homes and businesses had no electricity Sunday from Maryland to Maine as a storm system blasted the region with winds gusting to more than 50 mph, knocking over trees and a construction crane. The storm was blamed for at least
two deaths.

Gusts of 70 mph were possible Sunday in northern New York state, the National Weather Service said.

A falling tree killed a motorcyclist in Massachusetts, police said. 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.

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

The wrecking ball narrowly missed a car.

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

Utilities in Maine reported 44,000 customers still in the dark at midday Sunday and gusts up to 50 mph were causing new failures even as crews tried to restore service.

New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport, one of three major airports for the New York City region, had delays up to 2 1/2 hours, mostly for incoming flights, authorities said.

Willimantic, Conn., reported 3.54 inches of rain Saturday, and New York City's Central Park measured 2.54.

Power failures elsewhere across the region still affected more than two dozen communities Sunday across New Hampshire; 9,500 homes and businesses in Massachusetts; 1,500 customers in Rhode Island; 6,400 in Connecticut; 2,900 in Maryland; 5,000 in New Jersey; 4,700 on New York's Long Island; and 15,500 in upstate New York, state and utility officials said.

The weather observatory atop New Hampshire's 6,288-foot Mount Washington, famous for severe weather, reported sustained wind of 100 mph and a gust to 114 mph. The peak also got 11 inches of snow overnight, for an October total of 39 inches.

The storm produced heavy lake effect snowfall in parts of New York state downwind from Lake Ontario, including 9 inches at Old Forge, the weather service said. A winter storm warning was in effect for the area Sunday, with as much as 18 inches of snow possible at higher elevations.

The wind, rain and snow were produced by a stronger-than-normal low pressure system that passed through Pennsylvania and New York on its way to southeastern Canada, the weather service said.