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Archive for Saturday, December 13, 2008

Powerful ice storm leaves Northeast U.S. cold and dark

December 13, 2008

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Traffic is redirected Friday in Derry, N.H., after a utility pole snapped because of an overnight ice storm. The ice storm knocked out power to more than a million homes and businesses in New England, New York and Pennsylvania.

Traffic is redirected Friday in Derry, N.H., after a utility pole snapped because of an overnight ice storm. The ice storm knocked out power to more than a million homes and businesses in New England, New York and Pennsylvania.

— 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.

The Red Cross, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, has opened 23 temporary shelters across the state. 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.

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