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Millions In East Coast Without Power For Days After Isaias Sweeps Through

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. More than 3 million homes and businesses lost power as Tropical Storm Isaias swept up the East Coast, unleashing torrents of rain and high winds. Officials say some people could go days before electricity is back. NPR's Brian Mann has more.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: When the storm hit New York City, Tom Pavone (ph) was on a street corner near Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem. He watched a chunk of construction scaffolding break loose in the gale.

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TOM PAVONE: Look at this. Look at this. Oh, my God.

MANN: He wasn't injured, but the storm has claimed at least a half dozen lives. Those high winds also ravaged power lines. Here's a message from the power company Con Edison to customers in New York late yesterday afternoon.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Currently, Westchester County has 99,000 customers out; the Bronx, 23,000; Staten Island.

MANN: New York declared a state of emergency late yesterday afternoon in 12 counties where power outages remained widespread. At a briefing in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio called this the most damaging storm since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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BILL DE BLASIO: Extraordinarily powerful storm, very brief but very intense.

MANN: Tornadoes were spotted across the northeast, and de Blasio said winds at JFK Airport were clocked at 70 miles per hour.

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DE BLASIO: We saw a very large number of downed trees around the city that also, in many cases, caused horrible damage to homes and property; obviously, a lot of power outages.

MANN: New York City was spared serious flooding, but some streets in Philadelphia were deep under water when the Schuylkill River crested well above flood stage. The National Weather Service also reported damaging winds and widespread power outages in Connecticut and Massachusetts. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy began his briefing yesterday with a quote from Shakespeare.

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PHIL MURPHY: For the rain, it raineth every day, but I know we are moving forward to better days.

MANN: Trees crushed cars and damaged homes in New Jersey, and Murphy said one town saw 90% of residents lose electricity.

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MURPHY: The legacy of this storm is going to be power outages. At the storm's height, roughly 1.4 million households were without power. For some residents, we know that restoration may take some time, counting in days instead of hours.

MANN: Thousands of utility workers are still deployed across the northeast to clean up the mess. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday utility companies were unprepared for this storm. He has called for an investigation by state regulators. The storm and the cleanup are happening against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has forced first responders and power crews to work while trying to maintain the region's strict social distance and mask rules. Brian Mann, NPR News, in upstate New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEGENDARY SKIES' "WORDS ECHOING FROM TEACHERS PAST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.