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Utilities fix outages to more than 7 million; power back for most by weekend
Nearly 2 million homes and businesses are still without power five days after Hurricane Irene slammed into the East Coast.
Utilities restored about 7.4 million customers by Wednesday, according to an Associated Press tally of company reports. Hundreds of communities are still without power.
Flooding remains the main obstacle. Some communities along the North Carolina coasts remain partially flooded, cutting off access to transmission lines and critical electrical equipment. Swollen rivers in New Jersey have washed out roads and bridges, dousing electrical substations and making it difficult for repair crews to reach neighborhoods. The flooding was so bad in Vermont that the National Guard air-dropped food and water to some areas that were totally cut off.
One of the hardest-hit places remains the Richmond, Va., metro area, where 36 percent of the 491,000 power customers remain in the dark. Elsewhere, more than half of the 3,600 power customers in Wakefield, N.H., are still without power, while nearly half of the 14,700 customers in the town of Southold on New York's Long Island and a third of the 6,600 customers in Sharon, Mass., are still out.
The storm also led to the deaths of at least 45 people in 13 states as it raged from the Carolinas to New England.
Power companies have reconnected most of the vital services in their communities, including hospitals, fire departments and emergency call centers. Next up are schools and other community services, and then repair crews will move to individual neighborhoods.
PECO, which serves southern Pennsylvania, said that 90 percent of its power outages will be fixed by Wednesday.
Progress Energy in North Carolina, Pepco Holdings Inc. in the Washington metro area and Consolidated Edison in New York said they'll have most outages fixed by Thursday.
Dominion Resources in Virginia, Baltimore Gas & Electric and Long Island Power Authority in New York said nearly all customers should have power by Friday.
Chris Kahn can be reached at http://twitter.com/ChrisKahnAP