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Nor'easter causes new power outages, slows Sandy effort

A general view of hoboken partially covered by fog and snow during a Nor'easter, also known as a northeaster storm, in Hoboken, New Jersey,
A general view of hoboken partially covered by fog and snow during a Nor'easter, also known as a northeaster storm, in Hoboken, New Jersey,

By Scott DiSavino

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Power companies expect the nor'easter whipping across the Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday to create additional outages and possibly slow their efforts to restore service to customers left in the dark by Hurricane Sandy nine days ago.

Utilities from the Carolinas to New York reported on their websites that the nor'easter storm had knocked out service to at least 13,000 additional customers by Wednesday afternoon.

Some 650,000 homes and businesses were already without power due to Sandy in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a report.

"The new storm could delay customer restorations. Crews repairing overhead lines and equipment cannot work in high winds," New York power company Consolidated Edison Inc said.

Con Edison said its crews would receive more help on Wednesday when 300 mutual aid workers arrive just in time for the nor'easter's arrival, bringing the company's restoration workforce to more than 3,000 utility workers.

The nor'easter will bring rain, snow and heavy winds that could slam trees into power lines, utilities said. That could cause additional headaches for towns that still had outages.

In the town of Pelham in Westchester County, next to New York City, Town Supervisor Peter DiPaola voiced worries about the impact the storm would have on some residents still lacking power.

"It's coming up on ten days with people being freezing in their homes," he said. About 42,000 Con Ed customers in Westchester County remained without power as of Wednesday, according to the company's website.

In New Jersey, power company Public Service Enterprise Group Inc, which has the most customers still without service, said it expects to continue restoring power to the remaining 185,000 customers out despite the nor'easter's approach.

While work may continue in the rain, PSEG said federal safety rules prevent line crews from working in bucket trucks when winds are greater than 40 miles per hour.

There have been reports of wind gusts from the nor'easter at over 50 mph, according to weather forecaster AccuWeather.com.

If work has to stop because of the winds, PSEG said, "Crews will resume work when it is safe to do so."

Crews are working 16-hour days, with mandated rest periods and meal breaks. PSEG said it had secured an additional 600 line workers from Pennsylvania, bringing the total to more than 4,600 workers on the ground helping restore power to customers.

PSEG also said that despite some reports of shortages of wires, poles and transformers at some utilities, "There currently is no shortage of materials."

"This is an incredible restoration job so we continue to seek materials so we can be covered in case the damage in some areas turns out to be greater than anticipated," PSEG said. It said the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency "has offered to get materials for us, and we will take advantage of that offer".

A spokesman at Jersey Central Power and Light, the utility with the second-highest number of customers without power, said it had enough supplies of equipment. JCP&L is a unit of Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp.

Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on the night of October 29, affecting about 8.48 million customers in 21 states. Over the past 24 hours, the Department of Energy said power companies had restored service to about 320,000 customers.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino, Jeanine Prezioso, Jilian Mincer and Cezary Podkul in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Dale Hudson)

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