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3 days after Sandy slams East Coast, millions still without power

Battle-tested utility crews, with help from out-of-state-workers, are scrambling to restore power to millions in the Northeast, but progress is slow and not without glitches.

The so-called superstorm Sandy pummeled states from North Carolina to Maine on Monday and Tuesday, leaving an estimated 8.2 million customers without power across 20 states.

Devastation from the storm doubled -- possibly even tripled -- that caused by Irene, which hit the East Coast in August 2011 as a powerful tropical storm, knocking out power to 8.4 million customers in 13 states.

In Connecticut, which had 374,000 customers left in the dark, the first priority for utility companies was to clear safety hazards, such as fallen trees and downed power lines, while working to restore power to hospitals and police and fire stations. The state's two major electric utility companies, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, announced Wednesday -- two full days after the storm hit -- that the focus would shift Thursday to restoring power to the masses.

"They told us loud and clear that 'make safe and cut clear' needed to be the top priority," Michael West, a UI spokesman, told the Shoreline Times.  

In the city of Bridgeport, which saw a 9-foot storm surge, officials expressed anger at what they called the slow rate of progress at restoring power.  

"I am very frustrated," Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch reportedly said during a press briefing Wednesday. "We do not believe that Bridgeport is getting its fair share of attention."

"I'm sick and tired of Bridgeport being shortchanged," he said, suggesting that utility companies were focusing more on power restoration in the wealthier suburbs around the city.

The state's governor, Dannel P. Malloy, acknowledged general frustration with the outages on Wednesday, telling reporters, "People who don't have power are beginning to lose their patience."

"Trust me, I get it," he said. "Let's wait and see what [utility officials] say ... And then please know that I'll do my best to hold them accountable to the people of Connecticut."

While tensions mounted over the outages, utility companies were restoring power at a faster rate when compared to the response during Irene. 

In New Jersey, meanwhile, the state's utilities say 1.8 million homes and businesses are still without power. Public Service Electric & Gas said it could be a week to 10 days before it restores all power to nearly all its customers. Jersey Central Power & Light estimates most of its customers will have power back within a week. It may take two weeks for some in the hardest hit areas.

In New York City, Con Edison said it has restored power to more than 225,000 customers since the storm ended. As of early Thursday morning, it says 676,000 customers remain without power. That includes 227,000 customers in Manhattan, 103,000 in Queens, 59,000 in Brooklyn, 83,000 on Staten Island and 36,000 in the Bronx. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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