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One million lack power after massive ice storm

The northeastern United States is recovering from the worst ice storm in a decade, which left as many as one million people without power. A state of emergency was declared in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and parts of Maine.

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AFP - The northeastern United States was recovering Saturday from a major ice storm that left as many as one million people without power, officials said.

A state of emergency was declared in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and parts of Maine after the cold snap, which authorities described as the worst ice storm in a decade.

With temperatures clinging below freezing, officials warned that it could take days to restore electricity as utility companies struggled to repair power lines downed by ice-coated tree branches across the region.

"Customers currently without power should plan on the possibility of being without power for several more days," the Public Service of New Hampshire said on its website.

In New Hampshire, 307,000 customers remained without power at 2000 GMT, it said.

"The damage is extensive and assessment is a challenge due to many impassable roads," the utility company said.

"The magnitude of the damage is similar to that experienced in the January, 1998 ice storm, but covers a much more widespread area -- the entire southern tier of the state has been impacted."

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch declared a state of emergency on Friday, committing all resources to fighting storm damage.

In the far northeastern state of Maine, nearly 172,000 customers were without power Saturday, a spokesman told AFP, as utility trucks worked to restore power.

"It's going to be a few days, that's their best guess," a Central Maine Power Company spokesman said.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick also declared a state of emergency to mobilize the National Guard "and conduct other emergency business to assist local communities is their response to and recovery from ... this winter storm," his office said.

As many as 350,000 households were left without power in Massachusetts late Friday after the storm, which combined rain and freezing spells.

"The whole northeast of the United States is suffering," said Jeff Tilghman at Northeast Utilities, a power company serving the region.

"The rain and the ice caused the problem. Ice is problematic because it stays on the branches and they come down breaking the power lines."

More rain or snow was forecast for isolated areas of central New York state and northeastern Maine Saturday while the rest of the region was expected to remain dry but bitter cold, the National Weather Service said.

New York state, which extends far north and west of the city of New York, also saw 300,000 households and businesses left without power, the state emergency management office said.

"Mother Nature dealt New York State a crippling blow yesterday and overnight," said Governor David Paterson.

In Connecticut, 16,700 customers were left without power but that was reduced to 3,700 midday Saturday, Connecticut Light and Power reported on its website.

Thousands were also out of power in the northern tip of Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania.

Emergency officials warned residents to keep away from potentially lethal fallen power lines and advised against using candles at home because of the added fire hazard.

 

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