(CBS/ AP) 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.
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.
"I urge all New Hampshire citizens to take sensible precautions and heed all warnings from public officials," Gov. John Lynch said.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Patrick said it could be days before crews could even begin reconnecting lines and the first step was to safely clear the debris laying across power lines, reports CBS station WBZ-TV in Boston.
"This is not going to be a couple of hours," Patrick said. "It's likely to be several days."
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.
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.