Crews Work to Restore Power to 1.8 Million in Hurricane’s Aftermath

<i> From T</i> imes Wire Services

Utility crews worked Saturday to restore power to an estimated 1.8 million customers who remained blacked out by Hurricane Gloria, which contributed to nine deaths and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.

In the wake of Gloria’s dash up the East Coast and across New England, sunbathers and strollers returned to beaches, and card dealers went back to work in the casinos of Atlantic City, N. J.

Police in Connecticut reported sporadic looting. In Pennsylvania, officials said a 60-mile-long oil slick in the Susquehanna River apparently came from an underground toxic waste dump and probably resulted from heavy hurricane-borne rains.

Much Damage From Trees

Connecticut and New York’s Long Island bore the brunt of the storm, but much of the damage was caused by fallen trees that blocked streets and pulled down power lines. An estimated 3.5 million customers lost power temporarily as the hurricane passed.

Bob Blair, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, said Saturday that the agency had requests from the states of New York and Rhode Island for federal designation as disaster areas and that it was surveying damage elsewhere.


New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo estimated “millions and millions of dollars” in damages, mostly on Long Island.

“I think we have a good chance for qualifying” for federal disaster aid, Cuomo said Saturday after viewing overturned cabin cruisers, flattened trees and isolated places where roofs were peeled back like sardine can lids.

Winds of 150 M.P.H.

Cuomo acknowledged the damage was not as great as feared, when the hurricane churned at sea with winds of 150 m.p.h. and threatened to be the worst hurricane to hit New York City in this century.

But, he said: “We got hurt . . . . We don’t have any exciting pictures to put on television, but the damage is there.”

“It could have been a lot worse,” Connecticut Gov. William A. O’Neill said after flying over his state. “From the air, it didn’t look that bad, but there was a lot of damage. All in all, I would say the people of Connecticut were very lucky.”

O’Neill had damage of his own to contend with. His spokesman, Larry DeBear, said a tree crashed down on the garage of the O’Neill family home in the Connecticut town of East Hampton.

13 Held in Looting

In New Haven, looters hit 15 stores, including liquor, clothing and motorcycle shops, and 13 persons were arrested, police Maj. Walter Connor said.

“We will have special looting squads who are watching businesses that are without power,” Connor said. “We will be looking for people and roving gangs who are on the street when they’re not supposed to be.”

The storm brought a benefit in the form of heavy rain that slightly raised New York City’s drought-lowered reservoirs, where grass has sprouted on land that should be deeply submerged. However, water-use restrictions will remain in effect, city officials said.

A small part of Gloria’s destruction was welcomed. It ripped up the boardwalk along the beach at Ocean City, Md., where residents had set aside $1 million to replace the 23-year-old structure. “Now, we don’t have to tear it up,” City Manager Tony Barrett said.

Pennsylvania Oil Spill

But in Pennsylvania, the massive rains that accompanied Hurricane Gloria probably caused the oil spill in the Susquehanna, said Larry Pawlush, a state Department of Environmental Resources water quality official.

“At this point, we have a major oil spill,” said Mark Carman of the agency. “There is cause for concern.”

In Connecticut, more than 500,000 customers were without power Saturday and utilities said it may take a week to restore all service. At the height of the storm, Northeast Utilities counted 650,000 customers without power and United Illuminating said 184,000 of its clients were blacked out.

The repair costs to Northeast Utilities could run as high as $20 million, company President E. James Ferland said.

Connecticut utilities said the storm knocked down 21,000 miles of power lines and more than 400 utility poles.

New London Mayor Jay B. Levin said 75% of the city could be without power for two to three days.

‘Food Is Being Spoiled’

“We’re very concerned about how people are going to be fed,” Levin said. “Food is being spoiled all over town. Even the suppliers, like supermarkets, are throwing out food.”

More than 1 million New York electrical customers remained without electricity Saturday.

Carol Clawson, spokeswoman for Long Island Lighting Co., said crews were called in from utilities as far away as Cleveland, adding that it will be days before all power is restored. “The damage is very, very severe,” she said. " It is the worst storm ever to hit our (electrical) system.”

Hundreds of workers labored around the clock clearing roads of trees and debris, said Herb Davis of the Suffolk County Emergency Control office.

“It’s just devastating when you come home and see this,” Donna Belford of Islip, Long Island, said of a huge oak tree lying across her front yard. “But I’m alive, my house is not damaged, my cat is OK and this I can cope with. You can’t replace life, but you can replace trees.”

Apple Harvest Loss

More than 380,000 Massachusetts residents also waited for electrical service Saturday. The state lost thousands of trees and up to a quarter of the apple harvest, state officials said. Damage to the apple industry could reach $20 million, said Rich Cavanaugh, an aide to Rep. Chester G. Atkins (D-Mass.).