Progress To Restore Power To Northeast Slow

Car and driver are stopped in Derry, N.H. on a road littered with fallen trees and wires after an overnight ice storm Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. The ice storm knocked out power to more than a half-million homes and businesses in New England and upstate New York, and authorities say it could take days for all of them to get service back. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
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A church-turned-shelter dished up donated lobster casserole, pot roast and barbecued chicken, while a general store five miles away threw out spoiled meat and melted ice cream as utility crews struggled to repair power lines snapped by New England's devastating ice storm.

Roy's Market in Peterborough remained open after losing power early Friday morning but had to discard its perishables.

"Everyone's camping out here, just trying to muddle through, doing the best they can," owner Peter Robinson said Sunday. "And we're trying to help them any way we can."

Caught between a downed telephone pole on one side of her house, and fallen trees and power lines on the other, Sharon Russell brought her daughter and three granddaughters to the Jaffrey Bible Church shelter, where they enjoyed a nice pot roast supper, the girls kept busy with coloring books and movies - and Russell got a chance to catch up on her knitting.

"They've been very nice here and very helpful," said Russell, 50, one of more than 100 people who spent the night at the church.

Last week's storm blacked out 1.4 million homes and businesses across the region. Roughly 574,000 customers were still without power Sunday evening in upstate New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

President George W. Bush declared a state of emergency in New Hampshire and in nine of Massachusetts' 14 counties, directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief assistance.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York and Maine declared either limited or full states of emergency Friday. 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.

Despite the difficulties, utilities were making progress with help from crews from Canada and as far away as Virginia and Michigan.

New Hampshire was down to about 212,000 customers without power Sunday night, compared to a peak of 430,000 on Friday, utilities reported. It warmed up into the 30s and 40s on Sunday, but temperatures were expected to be below freezing again overnight, and Gov. John Lynch urged residents to find a warm place to sleep.

"The utilities are reporting that it will be next week before the power is returned to everyone, so I want to stress how important it is to plan appropriately," Lynch said.

Nearly 1,300 people stayed at 56 shelters in New Hampshire on Saturday night. In Massachusetts, the number of people at shelters nearly doubled to 1,800.

Maine's southernmost county, which escaped the worst of the region's infamous 1998 storm, bore the brunt this time around. There were still 79,000 without power in the state, down from more than 220,000.

"I've got a concentration in city areas," said Bob Bohlmann, director of York County Emergency Management Agency. "You get someone in Parsonsfield, they put another log in the wood stove and start up the generator. It's a different mind-set where you've got apartment dwellers, folks who rent, larger community homes, elder care."

In Kennebunk, Holmes Tree Farm closed on Friday but reopened Saturday. Diane Holmes said people were getting antsy in their homes and needed fresh air. They also needed to return to their holiday traditions. By Sunday, several hundred trees had been sold.

Holmes said the ice-laden balsam firs sparkled in the sunlight, but the ice made them heavy. "I'm telling people, bring a lot of muscle," she said.

In Vermont, Green Mountain Power President Mary Powell was touring affected areas and helping distribute lunches to the line crews. She said the damage caused by the storm rivaled or even exceeded the 1998 ice storm that hit northern Vermont.

"Whenever you get this kind of ice accumulation, there's just nothing from a utility perspective you can do to protect your customers from devastating damage," Powell said.

Emergency management officials reported four storm-related deaths. A Danville 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.

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