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01 November 2011

USA: More than 2.4 million without power as Northeast recovers from storm

Boston (CNN) -- More than 2.4 million people in at least five states were without power early Monday, a day after a rare October snowstorm buried parts of the Northeast under more than two feet of snow.

Authorities blamed at least five deaths on the storm.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or MBTA, warned riders that the storm could affect Monday morning commute. And with the chilly temperatures and piles of snow, Halloween plans were touch and go for many cities.

Worchester, Massachusetts, asked residents to postpone celebrations until Thursday when temperatures are expected to climb to 60 degrees.

"Safety doesn't take a holiday. Halloween tomorrow night will put families and our youth in harm's way as they negotiate piles of snow and downed limbs," the city said Sunday night.

Some of the heaviest snow fell in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, but snowfall amounts of at least a foot were recorded from West Virginia to Maine. The Berkshire County community of Peru, Massachusetts, received 32 inches of snow during the storm.

"I never have seen this and I've lived here all my life, and that's more than 90 years," 92-year-old Genevieve Murphy of Westfield, Massachusetts, said in an interview with CNN affiliate WWLP-TV.

Aaron Kershaw in Mahopac, New York, about 50 miles north of Manhattan, told CNN he was using a 4,000-watt generator to provide power for his family of five.

The wet, heavy snow brought down a number of trees, while coating the area in a think blanket of white.

"Thank God no homes, cars, people etc. were harmed," he said. "But Mother Nature left us beautiful scenery."

With no electricity and no heat, Jessica Taylor took her six children and spent the night in a shelter in the Hartford, Connecticut-area.

"We've been eating meals here," she told CNN affiliate WTIC-TV. "They've been serving us, taking good care of us."

Early Monday morning, the state's largest utility -- Connecticut Light and Power -- said Monday on its website that more than 758,000 customers remained without power.

"It's all hands on deck," Mitch Gross, a spokesman for the utility, said earlier. "We have a lot of work to do."

Power crews from across the country are converging on the state to help restore power," according to Gross, who said every town Connecticut Light and Power service was adversely affected in some way by the storm.

Elsewhere, about 202,000 customers were without power early Monday in Pennsylvania; 527,500 in Massachusetts; 275,000 in New Jersey; 286,000 in New York and 191,000 in New Hampshire, according to figures from emergency managers and power companies in those states. Thousands also lost power in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

Kimberly Lindner, of Chappaqua, New York, said the family whiled away the hours by building a "jack now-lantern."

"It's October and there are 12 inches of snow on the ground," she said in a submission to CNN's iReport. "But the kids think it's great. They've been playing outside all day and really don't care that there is no power. Why not make the best of things and have some family time in the snow? A snowman without a head, a jack o-lantern without a body... enough said."

For others, however, the unexpected storm brought unexpected misery.

Forty-eight passengers were stuck in an Amtrak train for nearly 13 hours when a rock slide blocked the tracks late Saturday night, the transit service said. A bus was later sent to pick up the passengers.

"The noise of the branches when they were falling and hitting the windows, they made us all sit in the aisle seats," Ann Amphlett, a passenger, told CNN affiliate WHDH.

Airline passengers left stranded by the storm spent a restless weekend night on cots or airport floors.

"Whatever kind of system they had, it completely and utterly broke down," said passenger Fatimah Dahandari, who spent a night in Hartford, Connecticut's Bradley International Airport while trying to get to New York. "It looks like a refugee camp in here."

Passenger Mara Dhaerman was also stranded in Hartford and said her JetBlue flight, initially from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Newark, New Jersey, spent nine hours on the tarmac in Connecticut. Passengers were told the plane was refueling, then de-icing, and that it was going to try to get back to Newark, but eventually a stairway was brought in and firefighters and troopers helped passengers off. She said she received a cot to sleep on about 1 a.m. Sunday.

"It's just very annoying," she said.

Two people were killed Sunday in a crash on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia, CNN affiliate KYW-TV said.

At least three deaths on Saturday were linked to the unusual October snowstorm.

An 84-year-old man was napping on his recliner in Temple, Pennsylvania, on Saturday when a part of a large, snow-filled tree fell into his house and killed him, according to a state police report. With numerous downed trees in the area, rescue crews took two hours to safely remove the victim, police said.

A motorist died in Hebron, Connecticut, state emergency spokesman Scott Devico said.

A third person was killed in Springfield, Massachusetts, when a man in his 20s ignored police barricades surrounding downed power lines and touched a metal guard rail, which was charged, said city fire department spokesman Dennis Legere.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts issued emergency declarations for their states.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said Sunday that some 40 shelters are open, in addition to places where people can go to warm up, take a shower or charge their phones.

Malloy added that authorities have left it up to municipal officials whether or not to postpone Halloween celebrations because of the storm.