Northeast ice storm leaves 1.25M without power

Saturday, December 13
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - As it got down into the teens and single digits in New Hampshire, people who lost power from a massive ice storm showed up at some shelters by the dozens.

"We're just loading up more cots and more blankets; I guess we're up to 36 people already," Kevin Pratt, fire chief in the southern New Hampshire town of Raymond said Friday night.

The local middle school usually houses 25 people comfortably, but if the need's there, they'll accommodate, he said. Visitors could eat a spaghetti-and-meatball dinner and take a shower.

"People's houses are getting cold and they're getting cold," Pratt said. "They're wise."

The town has about 10,000 residents, just about all of whom were in the dark following the storm, which left 1.25 million homes and businesses in New England without electricity; some were expected to stay that way for at least several days.

In New Hampshire, emergency management officials, the Red Cross and local communities opened at least 25 shelters across the state.

Gov. John Lynch, who requested a federal emergency declaration in order to receive generators, cots and other supplies from the government, urged residents to check on their neighbors, especially those who are elderly and live alone.

"I think there's no substitute for that kind of neighbor-to-neighbor assistance that New Hampshire is traditionally famous for," Lynch said.

The ice storm compared with some of the Northeast's worst, especially in New Hampshire, where more than half the state - 400,000-plus homes and businesses - was without power. There were far fewer outages during the infamous Ice Storm of '98, when some residents spent more than a week in the dark.

"All the motels have no electricity, and that's why I'm here," said Duke Straychan of Hampton, who came to stay overnight at Portsmouth High School. He can't do without power because he uses an oxygen tank at night. People at the shelter dined on American chop suey and shepherd's pie and watched "The Polar Express" in the cafeteria.

Hot meals of turkey and mashed potatoes were delivered to people staying at Londonderry High School. There were about 100 visitors with more expected, said Leslie Shaffer, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross. She believed most would still be there on Saturday.

The numbers also were rising at Nashua High School South, as well, as surrounding towns filled up their own shelters, said Mark Sousa, the city's emergency manager.

People lost power as far south as Pennsylvania, but most of the outages were in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and New York. Ice-covered trees cracked and fell on roads and cars.

"This is pathetic," said Bob Cott of Portland, Maine, who lost power. "I'm already sick of winter and we have nine days to go before it officially begins."

At least one death was related to the storm: New Hampshire officials said a 49-year-old Danville man who lived in a camper died of carbon monoxide poisoning after turning on his generator when his power went out Thursday night.

Both Lynch and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick declared states of emergency Friday morning and called up members of the National Guard. Five hundred Massachusetts Guard members were cleaning up debris and clearing access to downed power lines. Lynch put 150 on alert and deployed 25.

"All of the resources at our disposal have been made available to try to get the roads clear and power restored," said Patrick, adding that it would be "ambitious" to think power would be restored by Monday to the 350,000 homes and businesses in his state left in the dark.

"This is not going to be a couple of hours," Patrick said. "It's likely to be several days."

In Methuen, Mass., 40-year-old Itziar Richardson of North Andover was staying at a Red Cross shelter at the Comprehensive Grammar School with her husband and their 2-month-old son.

"I'm not having a good day," she said. "It's definitely not the best situation with the baby, but you have to make the best of it."

Crews from Canada and South Carolina were headed to Maine, where Gov. John Baldacci declared a limited emergency allowing utility crews to work longer hours. Utilities there chipped away at a huge backlog of power outages, reducing the total of more than 225,000 customers to about 210,000, mostly in southern and coastal areas.

In eastern New York, particularly around Albany, the state capital, outages at National Grid and other utilities brought the statewide total to more than 255,000.

"Trees were down on all the roads," said Miguel Figueroa, 28, as he waited for coffee at a Starbucks in Colonie, N.Y. "... I couldn't even get on the Thruway today."

In Vermont, four shelters were set up in southern Vermont for the more than 20,000 customers who were without power Friday night. It could be days before some homes and businesses get their lights back on, officials said.

Route 9 between Brattleboro and Bennington, Vt., a major road, was closed because of downed trees.

The ice storm extended to Pennsylvania, where about 4,700 customers, most of them in the Poconos, lost power, and Connecticut, where some 17,000 customers were without electricity at the height of the storm. Those states mostly got heavy rain or rain changing to snow.

___ Associated Press writers David Tirrell-Wysocki and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H.; Beth LaMontagne Hall in Portsmouth, N.H.; Mark Pratt in Boston; Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine; John Curran and Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vt.; and Mike Hill and Jessica M. Pasko in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.


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