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RI digs out after snow storm, widespread outages

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm •  Published: February 9, 2013
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Thousands made do without power Saturday night as Rhode Island dug its way out of a storm that left as much as two feet of snow in some parts of the state.

Jon Pincince of South Kingstown lost power in the early hours of the storm Friday night. When he still didn't have it Saturday, he drove his four children to stay with his parents in Cumberland because he expected the outage to last a few days, just as it did after Superstorm Sandy last fall. Temperatures were forecast to drop, and he didn't want his children to sleep in a cold house.

"It wasn't too cold when we went to sleep, but we woke up this morning and it was about 47 degrees," he said. He said his family spent Friday night playing with their previously-charged smartphones and then reading by flashlight.

Nearly 129,000 customers remained without power Saturday night, according to the state's primary utility, National Grid. Nearly all of Bristol County and most of Newport County were in the dark, as were many homes in communities along the southern coast and surrounding Providence. National Grid cautioned that it could be days before power is fully restored, even though it is bringing crews from outside the region to help. At its height, the storm knocked out power to more than 180,000 customers.

"We've had some major transmission lines down," said Tim Horan, head of National Grid in Rhode Island. "Our folks will continue to work through the night ... We'll make a big dent and get these customers back."

Community shelters in areas hardest hit by outages were opened Saturday afternoon. Gov. Lincoln Chafee said that as of Saturday evening few people were using the shelters. He encouraged people to look after elderly neighbors and relatives and said anyone who needs transportation to a shelter to call 211.

"We still have a large number of Rhode Islanders without power, and with the weather forecast being extremely cold we have concerns," he said. "Please be safe."

A statewide travel ban was lifted at 4 p.m. Saturday. The governor had ordered people off the interstates and then off roads completely to keep them clear for snow plows. No major accidents or injuries were reported on state highways, although dozens of cars got stuck in the snow, state police Lt. William Jamieson said.

All flights leaving T.F. Green Airport on Saturday were canceled, although a handful of flights were scheduled to arrive Saturday night. Trains from Providence were also canceled. Public transit officials said service could resume on Monday.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, who briefly lost power at his home, asked residents to check on family members and elderly friends and neighbors to make sure they were warm and safe.

"We're going to need patience," he said. "The city is working around the clock until everyone has their power back and everyone has the ability to travel."

Roads in Providence were mostly empty midday Saturday except for snow plows and emergency vehicles.

Not wanting to let the snow go to waste, Rebekah and John Speck strapped on cross-country skis and journeyed through the winter landscape of the city's East Side. They waited out the storm indoors playing chess and talking.

"There was some wine and whiskey," Rebekah Speck said.

"We both look forward to this," said John Speck. "We're winter people. We love this."

Across the neighborhood, Jennifer and Jason Harrison were making progress in clearing the 3 feet of snow that blocked their driveway and sidewalks. Jason Harrison had been working for nearly three hours with the assistance of a snow blower, but still had more work to do.

"Once every 30 years or so a storm like this is fine," he said, adding that his snow blower "has already paid for itself."

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Associated Press writer Michelle R. Smith contributed to this report.

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