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109,000 still awaiting return of power

Houses along the coast in Hull suffered severe damage from the weekend storm.

DAVID L RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

Houses along the coast in Hull suffered severe damage from the weekend storm.

National Grid on Sunday said it would take longer than first thought to restore power to two storm-damaged areas, while NStar — in its first estimate — indicated that some of its customers might not have power until Thursday.

Both utilities said their power delivery systems sustained heavy damage caused by the storm’s high winds and heavy snowfall, and the companies’ crews continued to struggle Sunday with impassable roads and deep snow blocking access to equipment. At the same time, new outages occurred, sometimes caused by snow- and ice-laden tree limbs snapping and knocking out additional power lines.

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“We understand the frustration with extended power outages,” said NStar spokesman Michael Durand, but “when you have blizzard conditions and hurricane-force winds and thigh-deep snow, it’s a recipe for damage and that’s exactly what happened.”

As of 8 a.m. Monday, a total of 109,463 customers from both utilities, most from NStar, were without power.

Aaron Wallace, emergency management director in Plymouth, said 71 percent of NStar customers in Plymouth were still without power.

“It’s slow rolling,” he said Sunday night. “We are currently working with NStar to prioritize lines” to be restored.

The town opened a second shelter, located at the Council on Aging, to assist residents. He asked people to be patient.

“There was damage to a substantial transmission line and a substation,” he said.

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office — which previously recommended heavy fines for both utilities after what it called poor storm responses — indicated it would carefully scrutinize how NStar and National Grid handle restoring power during the next few days.

“We expect the utilities to continue to devote their resources to ensuring that restoration is done as quickly as possible,” said Coakley spokesman Brad Puffer, “and that they effectively communicate to impacted communities and customers.”

National Grid, which had 23,786 customers out Monday morning, said it expected to have electricity for all residents in the Brockton area and Quincy back by mid-Monday — half a day later than originally estimated.

“As we continued assessing these areas and really got in to have a closer look to see what we had for damage, we had to push those [estimates] out a bit. We have an army of crews out addressing it,” said spokeswoman Deborah Drew.

National Grid said on Saturday that residents in the harder-hit areas of Hanover, Norwell, Scituate, and Cohasset might not be restored until the end of Tuesday.

Thousands of customers were returned to power Sunday, though a handful of cities and towns, such as Scituate and Cohasset, remained almost completely without electricity for much of the day.

Some residents layered themselves with heavy sweaters and blankets and sat by wood stoves and fireplaces as temperatures in their homes sank into the 40s.

Others fled to shelters, checked into hotels, or stayed with family and friends who still had electricity.

A shelter at Weymouth High School housed mostly elderly residents who bunked down on cots in the cafeteria.

“We wrap them in blankets and reassure them they’ll be OK,” said Ellen Patashnick, a volunteer with the American Red Cross, which was staffing the shelter.

In Scituate, downed lines could be spotted throughout town, dangling from poles and crumpled on the ground, resembling black snakes curled in the snow. In some places, the lines rested on car roofs and driftwood.

Rick Colvin said parts of his girlfriend’s house in the town’s First Cliff neighborhood registered 44 degrees Saturday night.

But Colvin, his girlfriend, and her children muddled through with the aid of a wood-burning stove and a heap of blankets.

“Staying up all night keeping the wood stove going, up every three hours, it’s a lot of work,” he said Sunday, as he paused from shoveling snow.

Governor Deval Patrick, meanwhile, was in Plymouth and Sandwich on Sunday morning, checking in with emergency management teams there, and getting regular updates from public safety officials, the utilities, the National Guard, and other agencies working elsewhere.

Spokeswoman Heather Johnson said the governor noted the drop in outages since the storm ended and said “he is pleased with the progress but that there is still more work to do.”

Both NStar and National Grid have called on out-of-state utilities to send crews, and those teams continued to stream into the state Sunday. One resident spotted a caravan of trucks rolling through Scituate in the afternoon, and a cadre of vehicles — some with plates from Tennessee and Kentucky — was seen stationed in Weymouth Sunday evening.

Across the state’s storm damaged areas, thousands of utility teams worked in tandem with city fire, police, and public works crews to clear roads and fix portions of the utilities’ transmission and distribution systems, including repositioning poles and rehanging wires that had been knocked down by high winds and falling trees.

While many tried for patience as they waited for their power to return, frustrations bubbled up.

In Pembroke, where more than 4,000 residents remained without power Sunday evening, Willard J. Boulter Jr, clerk of the Board of Selectmen, said he found National Grid’s organization lacking.

“I got a call today from a citizen that was irate,” he said. “They said they saw trucks — between 50 and 100 National Grid trucks — sitting in a parking lot.”

Further north in Norwell, resident Sarah Whitmore Hines said the prospect of being without power until Tuesday drove her and her husband to take their son and daughter to her mother’s house in Brookline.

“After the first day, you’ve played all the board games you can play and you’ve fed the fire as much as you can,” she said.

While Hines tried to remain optimistic, she said couldn’t help but be concerned by how often it seems a storm leaves her community in the dark for days.

“Three times in the last eight months,” she said. “Having no power for five days in weather like this is kind of unacceptable [and] it’s just frustrating coming from a small town that you’re always the last one turned back on.”

Kathy McCabe, Akilah Johnson, Meghan E. Irons of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Gal Tziperman Lotan contributed to this report. Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.
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