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Nor'easter slows Sandy power restoration in New York and New Jersey

By Scott DiSavino

(Reuters) - A nor'easter Wednesday in New York and New Jersey knocked power out for hundreds of thousands of people and slowed utilities' efforts to restore service to more than 600,000 still without power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Still, by early Thursday, utilities companies had electricity flowing again for most of the 300,000 people affected by the nor'easter, and resumed restoration of Sandy-related outages.

More than 671,900 homes and businesses remained without power Thursday morning, a number that includes outages relating to the nor'easter, up from about 626,000 out a day earlier.

Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on October 29, disconnecting power to about 8.48 million customers in 21 states, according to U.S. government data.

New York power company Consolidated Edison Inc said the nor'easter had knocked out electricity to about 55,000 customers in its New York City and Westchester County service area.

When the nor'easter hit, Con Edison said crews were working to restore service to 67,000 customers affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The company said on Thursday morning that crews were still working to restore about 72,000 customers whose equipment could be safely re-energized, and it hoped to have power back for them by November 10.

But some 30,000 Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens homes whose electrical equipment was damaged by flooding cannot safely get their power back without repairs and an inspection by an electrician, Con Edison said.

On Long Island, New York, the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid PLC said 206,000 homes and businesses were without power Thursday morning, up from about 170,000 a day earlier.

A unit of UK power company National Grid operates the electric system on Long Island for LIPA.

Because of flood damage from Hurricane Sandy's tidal surge, LIPA and National Grid said electricians had to inspect and possibly repair about 100,000 homes on the South Shore of the island before they could turn on the power.

As the nor'easter was bearing down on Long Island, LIPA and National Grid executives had said Wednesday that they hoped to have restored about 90 percent of those able to take power by the end of that day.

"We were on track to make that 90 percent, but due to the nor'easter, we did not make it," LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said.

He said the nor'easter had caused 123,000 new outages.

"The plan now is to assess this new damage as fast as possible, give as much priority as we possibly can for restoration to those customers affected by Sandy and also come up with a more detailed level of restoration dates for our customers," Gross said.

The other power company hard hit by the nor'easter was FirstEnergy Corp's Jersey Central Power and Light in New Jersey, which had more than 237,000 customers out Thursday morning, up from about 175,000 out a day earlier.

Before the nor'easter, JCP&L had said it expected to restore service to all of the Sandy-related outages by Saturday.

Ron Morano, a spokesman for JCP&L, told Reuters the company was assessing the damage from the nor'easter and would know later Thursday if it would impact the restoration estimates.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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