Millions Without Power As Sandy Makes Landfall

Sandy hit the East Coast on Monday and knocked out power for millions of people. Utility companies face major challenges to get power back online after the massive storm.

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Already more than a million people from Maine to Virginia have lost electricity because of the storm. And in one case, as we heard a few minutes ago, the utility Consolidated Edison took the unusual step of cutting off power to parts of lower Manhattan. By the time the storm is over, more than 10 million homes and businesses in the eastern U.S. could lose electricity. That's according to the utility industry.

Here's NPR's Elizabeth Shogren.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN, BYLINE: Rob Gould from Baltimore Gas and Electric Company says his company fears that the majority of its customers will be without power by the time Sandy has past through Maryland.

ROB GOULD: We're expecting several hundred thousand outages to be very candid.

SHOGREN: The strong winds and heavy rains are expected to last for as much as two days. Gould says earlier today workers restored power to tens of thousands of people who lost electricity even before Sandy made landfall. But the winds now are too strong for bucket truck crews to work safely.

GOULD: But we do have a core group that will be working through the night even in these conditions. And if there's an emergency call for a wire down that requires an emergency response, we will, in fact, respond.

SHOGREN: The rest of the crews are sleeping to get ready for a lot more work in the coming days.

GOULD: I have got to believe that this is going to be the largest or one of the largest, if not the largest, restoration effort in BGE's nearly 200-year history.

SHOGREN: Power companies throughout the mid-Atlantic region and New England had similar dire predictions. John Margaritis represents PSE and G in New Jersey. By early evening, more than 150,000 customers were already without power. Margaritis says there's a common recipe for how people lose power in his area.

JOHN MARGARITIS: The rain makes the ground soft, the wind which is so fierce blows the tree over into the power line and it's down.

SHOGREN: Like many of the other electric companies, PSE and G has brought in an unprecedented number workers from out of state to help repair the damage.

MARGARITIS: They've come in from Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia and Canada.

SHOGREN: But even with all that backup, Margaritis says his company is warning customers they could be without power for seven days. Elizabeth Shogren NPR News, Washington.

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