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Long road in restoring Northeast power

A utility truck makes its way along a rail line that was interrupted by a rare October snowstorm, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, in Millburn, N.J. The Morris and Essex lines were interrupted by downed trees and power lines during the storm. Millions of people from Maine to Maryland are without power after an unseasonably early nor'easter dumped heavy, wet snow over the weekend on a region more used to gaping at leaves in October than shoveling snow. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) 

A utility truck makes its way along a rail line that was interrupted by a rare October snowstorm, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, in Millburn, N.J. The Morris and Essex lines were interrupted by downed trees and power lines during the storm. Millions of people from Maine to Maryland are without power after an unseasonably early nor'easter dumped heavy, wet snow over the weekend on a region more used to gaping at leaves in October than shoveling snow. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) 

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Crews trying to restore power to hundreds of thousands of Northeasterners two days after a freak snowstorm swept up the coast face a tough job, even with fair weather to work in.

The wet, heavy snow that snapped branches and toppled trees across the region Saturday and Sunday brought down an extensive network of wiring, including sturdy, long-distance transmission lines and wires supplying individual homes.

More than 3 million customers lost power at some point from Maryland to Maine, and authorities have said it could be next week before power is restored to the rest of the more than 1.7 million residents who are still in the dark.

Many schools remained closed Tuesday throughout the region, and residents stood in long lines to buy fuel for their cars and generators.

"We've had to go to as many as 15 states to request crews," said Katie Blint, a spokeswoman for Connecticut Light & Power Co., the state's largest utility "We certainly understand the hardship this is causing, and we're doing our best out there."

Even with sunny weather in the 50s, unusually mild for the days after a wintry storm, shelters were filled with elderly and disabled people who had no heat and were seeking meals and cots. Overnight temperatures still dipped into the 30s and below over much of the region.

The storm dropped snowfall totals ranging from less than inch in some places to 32 inches in the small town of Peru, Mass., in the Berkshire Mountains. For some it was an inconvenience; for others, a disaster.

Authorities blamed the storm for at least 23 deaths, including one in Canada. Most were caused by falling trees, traffic accidents or electrocutions from downed wires.

The storm clobbered many communities still recovering from the flooding two months ago caused by Hurricane Irene, leaving weary homeowners exhausted and demoralized.

In areas of New Jersey, residents said they had been able to return to their homes only in the past two weeks. Several families spoke of just having done their first major food shopping since before Irene -- food that was quickly rotting in freezers without power.

Halloween trick-or-treating was called off or postponed in many cases because snow, branches and possibly live wires still littered the ground.

Thousands of would-be superheroes, ghosts and witches waited to collect Halloween candy after many towns asked parents to postpone or cancel Halloween revelry.