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Ice Storm Leaves One Million Homes WIthout Power in Northeastern US

Ice storm paralyzes parts of New England

 

Close to a million homes without power

Nearly a million homes and businesses in New England are facing a weekend without electricity after a rare combination of low pressure, moist air, and cold, powerful winds produced a punishing ice storm that swept through the region yesterday, felling countless power lines and trees and closing hundreds of roads.

The storm, which has caused tens of millions of dollars in damage across the region, led Governor Deval Patrick to declare a state of emergency, allowing him to mobilize 500 members of the National Guard to help clear roads and provide support. Patrick, who estimated the cost to the state at about $7 million, said he would seek a presidential disaster declaration to make federal money available for recovery efforts.

"I don't think anyone is expecting the power will be back in large numbers for a few days," Patrick said in a telephone interview last night. "I think it could be longer than Monday for certain parts of the Commonwealth. We'll know more after a lot of the debris is cleared in the next few days."

No deaths or serious injuries were reported, but the storm left utility companies grappling with unprecedented power outages.

Authorities said a Danville, N.H., man, however, died of carbon monoxide poisoning after he hooked up his generator during the ice storm, the Associated Press reported last night. The New Hampshire fire marshal's office said the man, who lived in a camper, turned on his power generator when his electricity went out around 10 p.m. Thursday. Officials have not released the man's name.

As much as 4 inches of rain fell over the region from late Tuesday night through yesterday morning, as a low-pressure system from the south and a cold front from the north stalled over New England. But the Boston area, which had only torrential rain, did not experience the icing that areas outside Interstate 495 and along the New Hampshire border did, where the rain froze on contact with the ground and everything else it touched.

"Nobody expected that the impact of this storm to be quite so devastating," said Mayor Konstantina Lukes of Worcester. "Trees are falling on cars, they are falling on houses, and they are trapping people in their homes."

In Massachusetts, 270,000 customers were still without electricity at 8:30 last night. In New Hampshire, which also declared a state of emergency, more than 400,000 homes and business were in the dark.

"We're telling people to hunker down for the weekend, said James Mannion, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, last night.

In Maine, 200,000 lost power, according to the state's emergency management agency. Connecticut Light & Power reported that nearly 17,000 of its 1 million customers lost service. In Vermont, at least 36,000 utility customers lost electricity, and power went out for about 6,000 National Grid customers in Rhode Island.

"What we're seeing is unprecedented in terms of New Hampshire storms," said Martin Murray, a spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire, which provides electricity to about 72 percent of the state. "We've never had any power outages approaching this. Virtually every part of the state is affected, and the damage is extensive."

With work crews in the region overburdened, New Hampshire and Maine sought help from Canada.

"It's just a massive task, and there isn't a lot of mutual aid available," said Lynette Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

National Grid, which serves 1.2 million customers in Massachusetts, had more than 650 crews working around the state to repair power lines, and they called in help from as far as Washington, D.C., and Ohio. "This is an extreme situation," said Debbie Drew, a spokesman for National Grid. "This will be a multiday restoration effort."

Across the region, the storm destroyed roofs, shuttered businesses, and made most aspects of life more difficult. Trains were delayed or canceled. Crowds of customers at hardware stores jostled to buy generators. Blood collection was hampered.

"There's tons and tons of debris out there, which is impacting the utilities' ability to restore power," said Peter Judge, a spokesman for MEMA. "It's as bad as we've seen at least over the last 10 years."

With signal systems down and trees blocking tracks, there was also widespread disruption of service on commuter rail trains leaving North Station.

"This morning was as bad as it gets," said Scott Farmelant, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company. ". . . Mother Nature wreaked havoc."

There may have been at least one victim attributable to the storm. Authorities in Marlborough suspended their search last night for Kevin Connolly, 50, a Department of Public Works employee whose city-issued truck was found abandoned by a creek behind the department's parking lot. He was last seen at about 4 a.m. yesterday after he reported to work and was dispatched to help sand roads and clear tree limbs.

"There has been an enormous amount of people" looking for him, said Marlborough police Lieutenant Tom Boland. Connolly has a medical condition that may cause blackouts or loss of memory, Boland said, so authorities are hoping he will be found.

"Let's hope that maybe he drives to his house or somebody finds him and he's safe and sound," he added.

Members of the State Police Search and Rescue Team, dive team, and the air wing and canine units plan to search an area of 150 acres today, beginning at 8 a.m., said David Procopio, a State Police spokesman.

Hardest hit in Massachusetts was northern Worcester County, where more than 100,000 homes remained without electricity yesterday afternoon. Worcester had the additional problem of controlling all the downed limbs, many of which are infested with Asian long-horned beetles.

Neighborhoods in the northern and western parts of Worcester were most affected, and three high schools were opened as emergency shelters. An estimated 25,000 people there were without power last night, Andreoli said.

On Ogden Avenue in Worcester, the problem was the once-massive tree in Dave Rousseau's backyard. One branch broke off at about 3 a.m. and fell onto the cars and trucks in Rousseau's driveway, denting and damaging hoods, roofs, and doors of the vehicles.

About an hour later, a tree trunk came to rest on a neighboring three-decker.

"We've got to look on the bright side," Rousseau said. "No one was hurt."

Downed trees and sagging power lines also made many roads impassable in Fitchburg, Leominster, and Holden, where so much ice and debris rained from trees that parents sent children outside to play wearing bicycle helmets.

After spending the night before his birthday in the basement of their single-story home in Holden, Mike Fahey awoke to find a tree that cleaved into two separate trunks. "I took a picture and I told my wife, 'These trees are coming down,' " he said.

Seconds later, both trunks gave way. One slammed onto the roof of Fahey's home. "This is a not a good birthday," he said.

Authorities across the state also eyed cresting rivers.

The 2 to 4 inches of rain that fell during the storm caused minor flooding. The headwaters of the Charles River in Medway rose just above the flood stage, as did the Aberjona River in Winchester, the Old Swamp River in South Weymouth, and the Jones Brook in Billerica.

The Sudbury River crested yesterday afternoon at 1.4 feet above flood stage in the Saxonville section of Framingham. The Assabet River in Maynard was expected to pass its 5-foot flood stage later yesterday evening.

The National Weather Service is forecasting low-land flooding today at the Assabet River in Maynard, the Nashua River near East Pepperell, the Sudbury River near Saxonville, the Shawsheen River near Wilmington, and the Blackstone River in Northbridge and Woonsocket, R.I., said meteorologist William Babcock. Flood warnings were in effect overnight for the Charles River near Medway and the Aberjona River near Winchester.

The good news is that the weather is improving.

With the storm now hovering somewhere over the Atlantic, the sun will shine throughout the metropolitan area over the weekend, said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton.

The temperature today should reach a high of 29 degrees, but fall to 19 tonight. Tomorrow, there will be a few more clouds, but the temperature should rise into the 40s.

Andrew Ryan, Brian R. Ballou, Noah Bierman, and Milton Valencia of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Padraig B. Shea, Anne Baker, and Casey Ramsdell contributed to this report. 

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company


http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/12/13/ice_storm_paralyzes_parts_of_new_england/

 

 

Ice storm leaves 1 million without power

 

'It's pretty ugly,' N.H. man says as storm socks New England, upstate N.Y.

 

The Associated Press, Dec. 12, 2008

CONCORD, N.H. - An ice storm knocked out power Friday to 1.25 million homes and businesses from Maine to Pennsylvania, closing schools and tying up travel, and authorities say it could take days for all customers to get service back.

 

"This is pathetic," said Bob Cott, in Portland, Maine, who lost power for the first time in 10 years. "I'm already sick of winter and we have nine days to go before it officially begins."

 

The storm brought rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow through Thursday night, and in some areas the miserable mix was continuing Friday. 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.

 

The governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire declared states of emergency Friday morning, and schools were closed and travel disrupted across the region. New Hampshire's court system canceled most hearings and trials for the day.

 

Power may not return to tens of thousands in Massachusetts until Monday at the earliest, Gov. Deval Patrick said. "Many of us view that as an ambitious estimate at this point," he told a news conference.

 

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch urged residents "to take sensible precautions and heed all warnings from public officials."

"I dont think anyone anticipated it would be as bad as it is," he added.

 

'Lawless out there'

 

In Hampstead, N.H., Mark Cegelis 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," Cegelis 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 some friends in Derry but couldn't get there because of downed trees blocking roads. So his friends came to him instead, and were expected to hunker down until power was restored.

 

In eastern New York, particularly around Albany, the state capital, outages brought the total in the state to more than 235,000.

 

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

 

Live power lines on ground

 

Fire departments were responding to reports of transformer explosions, wires and utility poles down and trees falling on homes. Utility crews were so busy dealing with public safety hazards like live power lines that they weren't immediately able to begin restoration efforts.

 

Utilities reported 392,000 homes and businesses without power in New Hampshire, including 300,000 served by the state's largest, Public Service Company of New Hampshire. By contrast, the 1998 storm left 55,000 Public Service customers without power.

 

"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," Public Service spokesman Martin Murray said.

 

The ice storm extended to Pennsylvania, where about 4,700 customers, most of them in the Poconos, lost power, and Connecticut, where some 16,500 customers were without electricity at midday. In most areas in those states, though, the big storm system left its mark in the form of heavy rain or rain changing to snow.

 

Gov. Patrick's emergency declaration in Massachusetts enables him to take further steps, such as mobilizing the National Guard, if needed as the day wore on.

 

At a midmorning news conference, Patrick said 350,000 customers across the state were without power  and the number had risen 150,000 homes in just an hour. He said it would be "ambitious" to think power would be restored by Monday.

 

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

 

Advice to 'stay home'

 

At least 20 Massachusetts towns declared local states of emergency even before the governor made the statewide declaration.

 

"Stay home if you live in Holden; don't come to Holden if you work here," Holden, Mass., fire Chief Jack Chandler said. The entire town was without power and some senior citizens on oxygen were transported to a hospital or a shelter opened at the town's senior center.

 

Central Maine Power Co. said more than 190,000 customers in the dark as of late Friday morning, mostly in southern and coastal areas. Bangor Hydro Electric Co. reported more than 11,000 outages.

 

Maine Gov. John Baldacci declared a limited emergency allowing utility crews to work longer hours.

 

In Vermont, 25,800 customers were without power Friday morning. Several inches of snow, caked with ice toppled trees onto roads and power lines.

 

Farther south, parts of Louisiana and Mississippi are shaking off a layer of snow, a rare occurrence in sections of the Gulf Coast states. Forecasters there have warned that freezing temperatures could make for treacherous driving conditions.

 

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28193030/

 

 

Ice storm leaves 600,000 without power

 

Emergency declared in Mass. and N.H.; service may not be restored for days

 

The Associated Press, Dec. 12, 2008

 

NEW YORK - An ice storm knocked out power to more than a half-million homes and businesses in New England and upstate New York, and authorities said Friday that it could take days for all of them to get service back.

 

The governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire declared states of emergency Friday morning, and schools were closed and travel disrupted across the region.

 

"I urge all New Hampshire citizens to take sensible precautions and heed all warnings from public officials," New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said.

 

Fire departments in New Hampshire were responding to reports of transformer explosions, wires and utility poles down and trees falling on homes.

 

Gov. Deval Patrick's emergency declaration in Massachusetts would enable the governor to take further steps, such as mobilizing the National Guard, if needed as the day wore on, officials said.

 

Full extent of problem not known

 

State officials do not even know the full extent of the problem because some towns have municipal utilities, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

 

At least 20 Massachusetts towns declared local states of emergency even before the governor.

 

"Stay home if you live in Holden, don't come to Holden if you work here," Holden, Mass., fire Chief Jack Chandler said. The entire town was without power and some senior citizens on oxygen were transported to a hospital or a shelter opened at the town's senior center.

 

"This is a really extreme situation we are experiencing," NBC affiliate WHDH-Boston quoted Jackie Barry, a spokeswoman for National Grid, as saying. The National Grid reported about 100,000 electric customers without power, mostly in the Worcester area and Merrimack Valley.

 

Unprecedented power loss in N.H.

 

Public Service Company of New Hampshire reported an unprecedented 230,000 customers  nearly half of the homes and businesses it serves  were without power as of 8 a.m. Friday. The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative said more than 41,000 of its homes and businesses also have no power.

 

Utility officials in New Hampshire said the outages had far surpassed the infamous ice storm of 1998, when some residents spent more than a week in the dark.

 

Around Albany, N.Y., National Grid reported more than 140,000 customers without power. Outages from other utilities brought the total in the state to more than 225,000.

 

In Maine, two utilities reported a total of more than 35,000 outages, while in Vermont, Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management, says more than 22,000 homes and businesses without power as of 6:30 a.m.

 

Farther south, parts of Louisiana and Mississippi are shaking off a layer of snow, a rare occurrence in sections of the Gulf Coast states. Forecasters there have warned that freezing temperatures could make for treacherous driving conditions.

 

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28193030/