Ice storm blasts Northeast
CONCORD, N.H. — An ice storm to compare with some of the Northeast's worst made a mess of the region Friday, leaving 1.25 million homes and businesses in seven states without power as it forced schools to close and toppled ice-laden trees and power lines onto slippery roads.
More than half of New Hampshire's homes and businesses lost power, and it was expected to take several days to completely restore electricity there and in other states. The storm wreaked havoc from Maine to Pennsylvania, leaving a sparkling, ice-covered landscape that was too destructive for many to find beautiful.
"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.
For New Hampshire, the power outages dwarfed those during the infamous Ice Storm of '98, when some residents spent more than a week in the dark.
In Hampstead, N.H., Mark Cegelis, 36, said things were hectic at his neighborhood gas station, which was jammed with people trying to get gas for home generators.
"It's kind of lawless out there right now," he said. "There's a lot of people very frustrated stacking up at the gas stations. It's pretty ugly."
He bought 21 gallons for himself and tried to deliver some to friends in Derry but couldn't get there because downed trees blocked roads. So the two friends came to him instead, and were expected to hunker down with Cegelis' family, his parents and another friend until power was restored.
"I'm sure they'd do the same thing for us," he said. "It's treacherous out there."
Nearly two dozen shelters were set up across the southern part of the state, and authorities were working to get generators to several nursing homes. About 35 people, mostly elderly, had settled in at a shelter at Portsmouth High School by early afternoon.
"All the motels have no electricity, and that's why I'm here," said Duke Straychan of Hampton, who 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.
Gov. John Lynch urged residents to "please go out of your way" to check on their neighbors, especially those who are elderly and live alone.
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 20.
"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 more than 250,000 homes and businesses in his state still left in the dark Friday.
"This is not going to be a couple of hours," Patrick said. "It's likely to be several days."
The Red Cross, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, has opened 23 temporary shelters across the state. In Holden, which had no power, some senior citizens on oxygen were taken to the hospital or a shelter opened at the town's senior center.
New Hampshire homes and businesses without power topped 400,000, a number that represents about 55 percent of all the state's electricity customers, said Thomas Getz, chairman of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission.
"This is the absolute, most significant power restoration effort we've ever had. There has not been a storm before that has affected more customers," said Martin Murray, spokesman for the state's largest utility, Public Service Company of New Hampshire.
Public Service officials suggested repairs for at least some homes and businesses will go into next week. They lined up 300 crews from as far away as Maryland and Ohio to be in the state by Sunday and were looking for more.
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 reported more than 227,000 customers in the dark, 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, at least three shelters were being set up in southern Vermont for the more than 30,000 customers who were without power Friday afternoon. It could be days before some homes and businesses get their lights back on, officials said.
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.
Though blue skies appeared in some areas by Friday afternoon, temperatures were expected to fall below freezing again, with single digits forecast for Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire Saturday night.
Associated Press writers Holly Ramer and Kathy McCormack in Concord, N.H.; Beth LaMontagne Hall in Portsmouth, N.H.; Russell Contreras and 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.