Scams crop up as thousands await power

MASSACHUSETTS - Emergency crews continued their Herculean effort to restore power to more than 95,800 Massachusetts customers amid grumblings about the slow pace of repairs and scams targeting powerless homeowners.

Some lawmakers said there’s no need to blame utilities - at least now.

“No one is wanting to string them up - yet,” said state Sen. Michael Morrissey, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Commission. “We want them to string up wires first.”

After electricity is restored, though, Morrissey said they will have to take a close look at what happened and where improvements can be made.

National Grid warned homeowners in the Worcester area to be on the lookout for fiends posing as utility workers who have hit up customers for as much $2,500 to restore their electricity. “We do not ask for money or take money to restore service,” said Debbie Drew, a company spokeswoman.

Gov. Deval Patrick took to the skies in a Black Hawk helicopter to survey the swath of devastation wreaked by toppled limbs, trees and power lines.

“There are trees down everywhere - wires down,” he said. “I saw telephone and electric poles that were snapped in half, some of them just hanging by what’s left of the wire.”

The balmy, mid 50-degree temperatures provided utility crews a little relief from falling ice and frozen hands while clearing trees and repairing downed lines.

National Grid deployed 1,000 crews, including workers from Tennessee, Indiana and eight other states, as well as Canada, to remove debris and restore power lines.

Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said about 2,000 people remained in 62 shelters while 95,800 homes - most of them in Worcester County - still lacked power, down from a peak of 350,000.

“Progress has been made. We’re doing everything we can to get these lights back on,” he said, adding that 1,500 National Guard troops, along with state highway workers, helped clear fallen trees.

In New Hampshire, where an estimated half-million homes were left dark by the ice storm, some 150,000 houses remained without power, while in Maine, 38,000 out of 223,000 darkened homes still had no electricity, said emergency management officials.


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