Utility officials trying to recover from the devastating ice storm in the Northeast warned there could be more outages Sunday as drooping branches shed ice and snap back to their original positions, potentially taking out more power lines.
Roughly 649,000 customers were still without power Sunday morning in upstate New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Utilities in hardest-hit New Hampshire said power might not be totally restored to the region until Thursday or Friday, a week after the storm knocked down utility lines, poles and equipment and blacked out 1.4 million homes and businesses.
President Bush declared a state of emergency in the Granite State and in nine of Massachusetts' 14 counties late Saturday, directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief assistance.
Temperatures early Sunday were largely in the teens and 20s, with single-digit readings in much of Maine, including just 2 above zero at Fryeburg. The low at Concord, N.H., was only 9 degrees, the National Weather Service said.
At a shelter in the Rindge town recreation center, volunteers serving soup and sandwiches saw some new faces as residents decided not to try to endure a third night without electricity or heat.
“I have an apartment, but there's no heat, no lights, no water.
I spent last night there, but after going through that, I decided not to do it again,” said Amy Raymond, 74.
“If you don't have power, assume that you will not get it restored today, and right now make arrangements to stay someplace warm tonight,” Gov. John Lynch said Saturday.
Crews across the region reported the ice had destroyed utility poles, wires and other equipment, but said the extent of damage was unclear because some roads still were impassable.
“We'd put one line up, and it seemed like another would break,” said Stan Tucker, operations supervisor in Springfield for Central Vermont Public Service Corp. “It seems like every line has multiple problems.”
Despite the difficulties, progress was being made. As of Sunday morning, Public Service Company of New Hampshire said about 194,000 of its customers still had no electricity, down from 313,000 Saturday. Statewide, about 234,000 customers were still blacked out Sunday, down from a peak of 430,000 on Friday, utilities reported.
In New York, all but five roads managed by state highway officials had been cleared Saturday. “But there are still trees coming down because of ice on branches; they're heavy and they can break at any point,” said Carol Breen of the state Department of Transportation.
New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Maine declared either limited or full states of emergency. Utility crews flocked to the region from Canada and as far away as Michigan and Virginia.
At least four deaths appear to be related to the storm. A Danville, N.H., man died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the generator he was using after his power went out Thursday night. Carbon monoxide from a gasoline-powered generator killed a couple in their 60s at Glenville, N.Y., police said Saturday. The body of a Marlborough, Mass., public works supervisor was recovered from a reservoir Saturday, a day after he went missing while checking on tree limbs downed by the ice.
At the shelter in Rindge, about 30 miles west of Nashua, Raymond's plight was shared by many.
“Everyone asks, why don't I just stay with friends and relatives, but I say, 'Who?' They're all in the same boat I am,”' she said.
In nearby Jaffrey, gunsmith Len Vigneault said the storm was impressive.
“Telephone poles snapped like toothpicks just laying there,” he said. “Fifteen-, 20-inch trees, just in splinters and laying in the road.”