Tri-State Digs Out After Surprise Snowstorm; Downed Trees, Power Outages Remain

President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Connecticut following a surprisingly strong October snowstorm that plunged millions into darkness over the weekend and drew comparisons to Tropical Storm Irene and will continue to cause problems for Monday evening commutes.

The storm dropped anywhere from a trace to 30 inches of wet, heavy snow from Maryland to Maine. More than 3 million people lacked electricity at one point as trees toppled under the weight and brought down power lines.

That number was down to about 2.1 million by early Monday. Service isn't expected to be restored in many spots until Wednesday.

Power outages persist

Meanwhile, in New York, nearly 300,000 are in the dark, including nearly 58,000 in the city and in Westchester. In New Jersey, there were 190,000 PSE&G costumers without power.

In Connecticut, over 740,000 customers are still without power, after this weekends rare October snow storm that set state records for outages and is blamed for two deaths.

“We’re talking about the long-term loss of energy, up to a week in large swaths as the state," Governor Dannel Malloy said Monday. "Obviously we want the utilities  to return everyone to power as quickly as they can.” On Sunday, Malloy asked the president to declare a federal emergency in Connecticut, which would make the state eligible for U.S. aid and involve FEMA in the local storm response.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie said the damage from this storm in the state — which remains under a state of emergency — was worse than the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene in late August. More than 300,00 remain without power.

"The grid of our electrical system is like a jigsaw puzzle, and when so many of the parts are taking out, it takes a while to put them back together," Christie told WNYC Monday morning.

The governor said he's meeting with utility companies to get an update and a time frame for when power will be restored.

Transit disruptions for NJ Transit, MetroNorth

New Jersey Transit was letting passengers transfer freely among train and bus lines because several miles of track were still disrupted. Hundreds of schools closed throughout the region, and Halloween trick-or-treating was to be curtailed in many communities because of downed power lines.

Across New Jersey, thousands of volunteer first responders were working with groups like Meals on Wheels on Sunday to identify the home-bound elderly and special need households who may need assistance.

Hospitals and senior living facilities have resorted to generators. Phone service is also problematic and downed wires have made local travel perilous.

Even though Public Service Electric and Gas, Jersey Central Power and Light and Orange and Rockland have hundreds of crews working around the clock, power restoration will likely take days. 

In Morristown, the Red Cross set up a shelter on the third floor of the municipal building and expects to house at least a dozen women and children from a nearby shelter that's without power.

Long time Morristown resident Anne Rubino, who is 83, lives alone and has trouble walking. She currently has no phone service or power. She said she struggled down a flight of stairs and out on to the street in front of her home looking for help from passers by.

Rubino was most concerned about the well being of her calico cat, Calley. A pair of Red Cross volunteers went back to Rubino's home to see to it Calley was fed. "Everyone has been wonderful," said Rubino. "You just never anticipate something like this."

With reporting from Bob Hennelly, Brian Zumhagen and Craig LeMoult