World and Nation

Storm leaves nine dead, over three million without power

It was a storm of record consequence, disrupting large swaths of the Northeast in ways large and small: Towns were buried in dense snowfalls, closing down streets, schools, and even, in some cases, Halloween celebrations.

By the time the great snowstorm of October 2011 finally ended early Sunday, more than three million customers would find themselves without power and with the prospect of enduring several more days without it. In many communities, the impact on daily life was far greater than the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

People emptied stores of generators and chain saws and flocked to town halls to charge phones on emergency power. The chilled and the hungry drove miles looking for a cup of coffee, or barbecued meat inexorably defrosting in powerless freezers. In Worcester, Mass., a wedding with cranberry dresses and flowers the colors of fall foliage ended up soggy and white. In Glen Rock, N.J., orderly suburban blocks became a maze, with fallen branches draped across nearly every street.

At least nine deaths had been attributed to the storm, including a 20-year-old man electrocuted by a downed power line in Springfield, Mass.

Communities in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire expected schools to remained closed for several days as they cleaned up downed electrical wires and fallen branches. And in Central Park, as many as 1,000 trees may be lost — eight times the damage suffered after Tropical Storm Irene.

But the most telling sign of how the snow had turned seasons topsy-turvy — throwing an icy and sometimes lethal blanket over trees whose leaves were often still green — the storm threatened to obliterate Halloween.

In Hollis, N.H., officials held an urgent meeting at the town hall where, unlike at their homes, there was heat, hot water, and flushing toilets. The emergency management director, Don McCoy, gave them the bad news: He was canceling Halloween until next year.

It was too dangerous, he said, for children to meander through total darkness, live wires and fallen branches, and there was no way to know how soon it would be safe.

Later, he relented, declaring trick-or-treating merely postponed, until Nov. 5, following the lead of the nearby town of Brookline.

“Things should be a little better then, and we hate to disappoint all the kiddies who went out and bought costumes,” McCoy said.

In Worcester, Mass, officials asked people not to trick or treat until Thursday; in New Canaan, Conn., a Halloween parade was canceled; and in New Jersey, town governments issued 5 p.m. curfews — effectively banning trick-or-treating — by sending text messages to residents on their phones.

“I told my kids we’re not having a white Christmas, we’re having a white Halloween,” said Maria Ponce, 32, of Port Chester, N.Y. “They’ll have to wear boots to trick-or-treat.”