Ernesto's Wind, Rain Down Poles, Trees in Mid-Atlantic

Power will not likely be restored for many customers of Connecticut Light and Power in lower Fairfield County until early in the week, a spokesman for the utility said Sunday.

In the wake of Tropical Storm Ernesto's remnants that swept through the state Saturday, broken utility poles pose a major problem, said Mitch Gross, a spokesman for CL&P.

"It makes for a longer repair process," he said.

Nearly 46,000 customers of the Berlin-based utility were without power Sunday morning. That was down slightly from Saturday evening.

Many customers will not get electricity back until Monday or Tuesday, Gross said.

Efforts to restore power are complicated by CL&P's inability to borrow utility workers from other states that are struggling with power outages of their own, Gross said.

The hardest hit areas were in the southwestern part of the state. Greenwich, Norwalk and Darien experienced about half of the outages. Gusts of more than 50 mph were recorded in parts of the state.

While the wet and windy weather kept many indoors at the start of the long Labor Day weekend, others made the most of it, taking their windsurfers and boogie boards out into the high waves as the storm rolled up the Atlantic Ocean.

Ernesto was reduced to an area of rain over western New York state and the lower Great Lakes by Saturday afternoon, after drenching Virginia and North Carolina with up to a foot on its run up the East Coast.

Connecticut, however, avoided most of the heavy rain, which fell to the south and west of the state. There was some flooding in shoreline communities but most of the water was expected to recede overnight, forecasters said.

"We are fortunate this storm didn't bring more rain," Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi said. The high winds did scatter debris throughout some of the shoreline neighborhoods of that city and Fabrizi estimated cleanup would take about a week.

"We will have crews out first thing Tuesday morning to help residents remove these from their properties."

Wind advisories were posted for the northwestern corner and shoreline. Gusts of nearly 50 mph were recorded along the shoreline.

The wind advisory was in effect for western Litchfield County until 6 a.m. Sunday. The shoreline advisory is expected to be lifted by 8 p.m. Saturday.

More than 150,000 people remained without power Sunday in Westchester County, Long Island and parts of New York City after the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto hammered the region and also caused flooding and beach erosion.

Consolidated Edison reported about 33,700 of its customers — or about 135,000 people — had lost power, with most of those outages scattered throughout Westchester County. Areas of Staten Island and the Bronx were also affected.

A customer can include an entire household or building.

The Long Island Power Authority, meanwhile, said that upward of 13,000 customers were without service throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties early Sunday. Based on LIPA's formulas, that translates to more than 38,000 people — down from about 125,000 people Saturday evening.

Both companies said they had employees working around the clock to restore service, and Con Ed said crews from Albany and Rhode Island had joined the effort.

"We're getting hit pretty hard with this," said Long Island Power Authority chairman Richard Kessel. "We have these huge gusts of wind that keep downing poles."

The National Weather Service reported as much as four inches of rain on Long Island over the previous week; the New York metro area received about an inch of rain Saturday. Winds reached more than 50 miles per hour in some areas, according to the weather service.

Wind and rain affected air traffic throughout the day at John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Flights — primarily arrivals — experienced delays up to three hours, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The weather during the holiday weekend also strongly affected activity on the coasts.

Swimming was banned at most New York beaches due to rip tides. Waves up to 12 feet high sucked away pieces of shoreline, turning some usually flat, sandy stretches into miniature bluffs up to four feet high.

"We haven't seen these types of conditions in a couple of years," George Gorman, regional director of the New York state parks on Long Island, said by telephone from his wind-rocked car.

He said some of the damaged beach areas may need to be repaired with bulldozers.

Police and fire departments stayed busy responding to accidents and reports of distressed wind surfers and overturned boats, including a sailboat that sank in Orient Harbor on Long Island Sound.

The weather led many to stay indoors and caused delays at the U.S. Open, being held in Queens.

Most play was postponed until Sunday, including matches involving Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova. Andre Agassi, playing in the final tennis tournament of his career, will also wait until Sunday for his match against German Benjamin Becker.

Ernesto has been blamed for at least five deaths since it first came ashore in North Carolina late Thursday as a tropical storm.

It weakened to a tropical depression on Friday as its winds diminished.

In the Philadelphia region, PECO Energy says they're working to get the last few thousand customers back online.

More than 100,000 customers in the five-county region lost power at some point during the storm, which moved through the state Friday and Saturday.

Most of the remaining problems are in the suburbs.

Although Ernesto dropped less rain than feared and caused little flooding, the storm has claimed one life in Pennsylvania.

Authorities say a 45-year-old Bucks County man out walking his dog with his wife drowned after trying to rescue the dog from a drainage pipe in a flooded retention basin.