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Patrick urges patience as crews work to restore power

Some customers may not see their power restored until Friday

A utility crew replaced a broken pole in Greenfield.
A utility crew replaced a broken pole in Greenfield.Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

FRAMINGHAM — Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today urged patience as hundreds of thousands of utility customers in the state waited for their power to be restored after an unusually early nor’easter over the weekend that dumped as much as 30 inches of heavy, wet snow in some areas.

Patrick said utility crews were “making progress” but there was “a lot more to do and a few days yet before power will be restored to everyone.”

State officials said 1,500 crews — an unprecedented number — were working to restore power. The officials said they hoped the number of customers without power would be cut in half by the end of the day, but cautioned that some might not get their power back until Friday.

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More than 519,000 customers were without electricity at mid-morning, but by the late afternoon, the number of power outages had dropped to around 460,000.

Late in the afternoon, Patrick, who had declared a state of emergency Saturday night and mobilized National Guard troops, signed a letter to the White House requesting an emergency declaration that would allow federal storm relief funds to flow to local governments, said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency spokesman Peter judge.

Speaking at a morning news conference at the state emergency operations center in Framingham with other top state officials, Patrick called the storm “extraordinary.”

He said at least three storm-related deaths had been reported: a young man in Springfield who was electrocuted because of a downed wire, an elderly woman who died in a Lunenburg fire, and a person in Hatfield who died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to inadequate ventilation of a generator. Police in Falmouth have also said two people died there in a car crash in which the storm played a role.

Citing the possible dangers caused by downed live wires, blocked streets, and debris, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray urged local officials “to use discretion and common sense as to whether they should be going forward with Halloween or not.”

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“We just want people to use caution — parents as well — as to whether it makes sense,“ Murray said.

Patrick said 1,300 people were in shelters. He said that people who can stay in their homes should do so, but if necessary, they could call the state’s 211 help number to get information on shelters.

He cautioned the public to stay away from potentially deadly downed wires, make sure if they use generators that the devices are properly vented, not to use their ovens to heat their homes, to drive carefully as nighttime temperatures fall below freezing, and to check on their elderly and vulnerable neighbors.

As many as 2,000 utility crews are expected to be at work Tuesday restoring power, said Secretary of Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan. Crews are being drawn from as far away as Louisiana, Texas, Michigan, and Canada, he said.

Repairing the widespread damage from the storm is “a slow process,” he said. “Those connections will take time. We are still looking at a multiple-day event. . . . People need to plan ahead for that.”

Asked if he was satisfied with utilities’ efforts to restore power, Governor Patrick said he understood the frustration of people who are without power.

But he said, “I think the utilities’ plans are sound. I think they’re executing on those on those plans well.”

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By 4 p.m., the number of outages had been reduced to 459,809. That included 303,683 for National Grid, 112,559 for Western Massachusetts Electric, 34,506 for NStar, and 9,061 for Unitil. The number was down from a peak of 671,000.

NStar spokesman Michael Durand said, “Given the downed trees limiting access in some areas and the severe damage done to our system, our cleanup and power restoration effort will be a multi-day effort.”

National Grid spokesman David Graves said, “We’re looking toward the end of this week” for restoration of all service.

Both said that the restoration time estimates are available on their company websites.

Unitil said in a statement this morning that the majority of its customers would be back on line by the end of today, with some outages lasting into Wednesday.

Western Massachusetts Electric Co. said this morning in a statement that “all available resources” would be working today and out-of-state crews would be arriving today to assist.

Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said that due to downed power lines there had been power outages affecting signal systems on the Fitchburg and Haverhill commuter lines. Twenty-three trains were delayed by mid-morning. Delays were from five to 40 minutes, he said.

Scott Farmelant, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, which runs the commuter rail service for the state, said only the Fitchburg line had experienced significant weather-related delays, of 20 to 40 minutes.

“All things considered, we responded well to Mother Nature’s curveball,” Farmelant said.

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There were also some mechanical issues on the Needham line this morning, he said, but he would not say if the issues were weather-related.

Amtrak trains from New Haven to Springfield are still suspended with no alternate transportation, Cliff Cole, a spokesman for Amtrak, said this morning.

Additionally, trains from New Haven to St. Albans, Vt., are canceled with no alternate transportation. Trains from Albany to Boston are also canceled, though Amtrak is providing a bus service along the route, Cole said.

There were no major problems or delays this morning with airlines at Logan International Airport, said Phil Orlandella, an airport spokesman.

Globe correspondent Jaime Lutz contributed to this report.