Utility officials trying to recover from a devastating ice storm warned there could be more outages Sunday as drooping trees and branches shed ice and snap back into their original positions, potentially taking out more power lines.
Roughly 800,000 customers were still without power in upstate New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine late Saturday. Utility officials in hardest-hit New Hampshire said power might not be restored to the region until Thursday or Friday, a week after the storm knocked down utility lines, poles and equipment, leaving 1.4 million in the dark.
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.
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 saw electric poles, wires and equipment destroyed. 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.”
In New York, all but five roads managed by state highway officials had been cleared Saturday.
“Things are much better,” Carol Breen of the state Department of Transportation said. “But there are still trees coming down because of ice on branches; they’re heavy and they can break at any point.”
New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Maine declared either limited or full states of emergency.
Utility crews flocked to the region from as far away as Michigan, Virginia and Canada.
At least four deaths appear to be related to the storm. A Danville, N.H., man who lived in a camper died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the generator he was using after his power went out Thursday night. A couple in their 60s died in Glenville, N.Y., when a gas-powdered generator running in an attached garage filled their house with carbon monoxide, police said Saturday. The body of a Marlborough, Mass., public works supervisor was recovered from a reservoir Saturday afternoon, a day after he went missing while responding to tree limbs down by an ice storm.
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.
Retired auctioneer Ed Stevens, 88, came to the same shelter Saturday after rejecting several suggestions that he do so earlier.
“I told them, ‘No way!’ I guess I’m too damned independent,” he said.
After two days of reading the newspaper in a cold house, he gave in.
“I guess if it’s between here and freezing to death in my own house, I’ll take here,” he 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.”
He planned to ride out the blackout with his woodstove and propane heater, then “start gathering a whole mess of firewood for next year. What else are you going to do?”