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Freak snowstorm blamed for at least 22 deaths

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:40 AM EDT, Fri November 4, 2011
A fallen tree branch hangs on a power line in Natick, Massachusetts. Millions across the Northeast are still without power after an October 29 snowstorm.
A fallen tree branch hangs on a power line in Natick, Massachusetts. Millions across the Northeast are still without power after an October 29 snowstorm.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 6 storm-related deaths in Massachusetts
  • NEW: 8 deaths in New Jersey
  • An estimated 831,000 CL&P customers lost power during Saturday's storm
  • Governor: 4 of the 8 Connecticut deaths were from carbon monoxide poisoning

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(CNN) -- The freak snowstorm that pounded the eastern United States late last week, cutting power to hundreds of thousands of people, killed at least 22 people, officials said Thursday.

In Massachusetts, at least six deaths were related to the storm, and a seventh was under investigation, said Peter William Judge, public information officer for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Four of the deaths were linked to carbon monoxide poisoning; one person was electrocuted by a downed power line and one person died in a house fire blamed on the storm, he said.

In New Jersey, eight storm-related fatalities were tallied, including three people who burned to death in house fires, one person who died when a branch fell on him, another who died when a tree fell on him, and three people who died in motor vehicle accidents. A ninth death was under investigation.

In Connecticut, eight people died, four of them from carbon monoxide poisoning, said Gov. Dannel Malloy. In all, 91 shelters and 111 warming centers were to be open in the state Thursday night, he said.

Snowstorm strands reporter in airport
Freak weather around the world
Snowstorm leaves millions without power
Time-lapse of the snowfall in New Jersey

An estimated 831,000 customers lost electricity during Saturday's storm, according to Connecticut Light & Power officials and the attorney general's office. The storm dropped at least a foot of snow in a band from West Virginia to Maine.

By Thursday afternoon, power had been restored to slightly more than half of the affected customers, said Dave Radanovich, a CL&P spokesman. He predicted power would be fully restored by Monday morning.

The utility -- using workers from 20 states -- deployed 867 line crews composed of two or three workers each to repair downed transmission lines; another 628 tree crews and 550 support crews were aiding the effort, Radanovich said.

President Barack Obama has signed emergency declarations for New Hampshire and Connecticut, clearing the way for federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts.

Connecticut's attorney general called Thursday for regulators to investigate CL&P, the state's main electric utility, over its handling of the storm.

Attorney General George Jepsen filed the request with the state's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, which is already investigating CL&P over its response to power outages during Tropical Storm Irene in September.

"The heavy, wet snow weighed down on the trees," Radanovich said. "Limbs were holding two times their normal weight," because the state's trees still have leaves on them.

In addition, CL&P had less time to prepare for Saturday's storm by bringing in out-of-state crews ahead of time, according to Radanovich, since the storm hit with little notice. "Forecasts for this storm initially predicted only 6 inches of snow, but on Friday that jumped to a foot," he said.

CNN's Andy Rose, Dan Verello, Hussein Saddique and Logan Burruss contributed to this report.

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