The U.S. Army began airlifting troops and equipment into blizzard-battered New England yesterday as the northeastern states began struggling to recover from snows, winds and wild seas that left more than 60 persons dead and economic losses in the millions.

The toll of dead in the northeastern storm and elsewhere across the icy, frigid nation so far this week mounted to at least 65, and the number of weather-related deaths in the winter of 1978 climbed to at least 252.

Army troops - the first more than 1,000 committed to rescue and recovery efforts by President Carter - began arriving in snow-strangled New England, which bore the brunt of the Monday-Tuesday storm.

A C130 cargo plane arrived at a newly cleared Warwick, R.I., airport at mid-morning with an Army advance party. A short time later, crews opened the first thin emergency runway at Boston's Logan International Airpost. Other crews worked to put Hartford's airport back in shape to reveive incoming soldiers.

The massive airlift of 1,000 troops, 6 million pounds of snow-removal equipment, Army engineers, medical personnel and supplies will bolster thousands of National Guardsmen on storm duty since Monday, authorities said.

"We're very happy to see you," Rhode Island Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy said as he greeted the task rescue flight rolled to a stop at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick.

"We did handstands and almost a miracle to get the airport open."

A spokesman for Garrahy added, "Even with the Army troops, it's going to be a long haul."

The electricity in parts of Boston failed shortly before noon, hours after the end of a second storm-caused outage which left more than one-third of the 220,000 Boston Edison Co. customers without power for up to 23 hours. Officials said 75,000 to 100,00 customers - including Boston Edison's headquarters and the snow command center - were affected.

Throughout the Northeast, travel was still difficult and sometimes hazardous. There were scattered bans on nonessential driving - with treats of tickets and arrests for violators. Nonetheless, many workers struggled back to jobs they had blizzard Monday afternoon. Shoppers searched stores for supplies of milk, bread and other staples.And homeowners shoveled. And shoveled.

Many of the deaths were blamed on overexertion as people attempted to shovel snow that drifted to six feet and more. Five men on board a pilot ship that had been sent to the aid of a grounded oil tanker off Salem, Mass., also were feared dead. The Coast Guard scheduled a rescue attempt yesterday for the 32 persons aboard the 682-foot tanker Global Hope, a Greek vessel.

Most major roads in the region began to reopen yesterday morning, but there were still severe problems with drifts. Some 2,500 stranded vehicles, including 500 trucks, clogged an eight-mile stretch of Route 128 near Canton, Mass. The state Department of Public Works sent 12 wreckers and 12 snow removers to the rescue and officials warned people not to try to look for cars themselves. "No one will be allowed on Route 128," said Public Works Commissioner John J. Carroll. "Do not attempt to recover vehicles."

A statewide ban on non-emergency driving in Connecticut was lifted by Gov. Ella Grasso at noon. She said cities and towns could put their own bans into effect, however, and about half a dozen did. The statewide ban resulted in tickets for 80 motorists in Bridgeport alone yesterday morning.

Calling the situation in the heavily populated eastern part of Massachusetts "awesome" and "unbelievable," Gov. Michael Dukakis extended the state of emergency to at least midnight tonight, keeping all schools and nonessential business closed and banning all but emergency and necessary service vehicles from Massachusetts roads.

In contrast to the calm winter scene that might have been depicred in a Grant Woods painting, federal troop trucks, police cruisers and National Guard vehicles lumbered along major highways, aiding in rescue and clean up operations and patrolling Boston to prevent looting.

In one of the uglier episodes of the storm, police in riot gear Tuesday night arrested 119 looters in the Dorchester, Roxbury and South Boston neighbourhoods, carrying the prisoners to the city's Charlestown jail in convoys of six-wheel drive, four-ton National Guard trucks. The prisoners were each ordered held on $100,000 bail.

In dozens of Boston's South Shore suburban communities, devastating tidal flood waters forced thousands of people into emergency Red Cross shelters, National Guard armories and schools and churches further inland.

"I can't begin to describe the devastation to our coastal communities," Gov. Dukakis said following a helicopter tour of the Greater Boston area. "Houses have been washed into the sea, houses tipped into the ocean. There were just sticks and scrap lumber where there used to be homes."

A five-year-old girl on the South Shore drowned after high winds tore her from the arms of a firefighter attempting to rescue her from her flooded home.

Massachusetts officials who have obtained federal support in the form of troops and equipment from Fort Bragg, N.C., are still seeking an executive order from President Carter declaring the state a federal disaster area so that financial aid can be obtained for state and local government and the thousands of people who have suffered storm losses.

In the New York metropolitan area, Newark, Kennedy and La Guardia airports all reopened by noon, but service was far from normal. Commuter rail and bus lines operated on reduced schedules during the morning rush hour, promising improvement in the evening.

The snow belt ranged from Maryland and Delaware up the coast to New Hampshire and Vermont. Many coastal areas also were flooded by record high tides. The impact of the storm varied widely, however. Most of the serious problems were over in Maryland and Delaware by yesterday, although many schools were closed.

"It's quieting down, stabilizing and now it's) mostly a matter of digging out," said a Civil Defense spokesman in Harrisburg, Pa. Traffic was reported moving - albeit slowly - along major roads in Pennsylvania.

In New Jersey, yesterday brought the resumption of mail delivery and for most of the state it was the first postal service since Saturday. Only a few areas reported deliveries on Monday and there was no service Tuesday. "This was a first," said one postmaster. "We've never shut off deliveries before two days in a row."

New York City's Schools Chancellor Irving Anker announced that public schools, which were closed Monday, Tuesday and yesterday, would reopen today. Conrail, which serves suburbs north of the city, said in early afternoon that it was resuming normal schedules, but it warned that there might be equipment scheduled and delays. CAPTION: Picture 1, A Coast Guard vessel, the Mohican, clears a southbound shipping channel on the ice-covered Potomac River off Mount Vernon, By James M. Thresher - The WashingtonPost

Picture 2, In CumberlandM R.I., appliances boxes provide shelter from snow and winds, AP