As Water Recedes, Frustration Rises on East Coast

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Hundreds of thousands of residents on the East Coast are still dealing with the after effects of Hurricane Irene.

An estimated 895,000 homes and businesses are still without power, down from the 9.6 million left in the dark at the height of the storm.

Now that some of the floodwaters are beginning to recede, the criticism against several utility companies is rising.

"It's like `Little House on the Prairie' times," said Debbie McWeeney, who went to a Red Cross shelter in Warwick, R.I., to pick up food and water after everything in her refrigerator went bad. "Except I'm not enjoying it at all."

Julie Marlowe of Towson, Md., was among those fed up with her utility company, Baltimore Gas & Electric. She said she has heard enough empty promises since the lights went out on Saturday night.

"Don't tell me that it will be restored by a certain time and then let that time go by. Tell me a later date and get it back on earlier and I'll be impressed," she said.

In Richmond, Va., a huge tangle of downed cables lay in the street outside the Hilscher home.

Beth Hilscher said she had repeatedly called the power company about the electricity, "and every time, it's like a new report, like they've never heard of it before."

Politicians have been inundated with complaints from people who say it is taking too long for power to be restored.

Rhode Island state Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. on Thursday called on the state Public Utilities Commission to investigate National Grid.

"It is getting near to a week since the storm passed through our area and many Rhode Islanders are still without electricity," he said.

"I think we need to ask the company some very pointed questions about its preparation for storms and the speed of its response to them," he said.

William Bryan, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Energy Department, told the Associated Press it typically takes at least few days to restore power after a storm like Irene.

Meanwhile in Vermont, flood waters are beginning to recede, giving many residents a chance to assess damages for the first time.

"I never thought that this would happen. Never. You can see it's devastating," said Vera Gervais, a local resident whose home was flooded.

The White House declared a major disaster in Vermont, clearing the way for federal aid.

President Obama is scheduled to visit northern New Jersey to review the flood damage on Sunday.

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