600,000 without power after epic ice storm

JAFFREY, NEW HAMPSHIRE - Joined by people seeking shelter from the bitter cold, parishioners at the Jaffrey Bible Church thanked God for a warm place to sleep and for the utility crews struggling to repair power lines snapped by New England's devastating ice storm.

"Your fellow Jaffrey residents have stepped up and made this a more bearable situation," Walt Pryor, recreation department director for the town of 5,700, told the congregation.

Church administrator Rick Needham noted the "terrible devastation in our lives and homes," recognizing two families whose homes were damaged by falling trees.

The church had been turned into a shelter, with cots and mattresses set up in offices and hallways, televisions and jigsaw puzzles in the basement.

Donated food was plentiful, including lobster casserole, pot roastand barbecued chicken.

The ice storm knocked out electrical service to 1.4 million homes and businesses. More than 600,000 customers still lacked power December 14 in upstate New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Utilities in hardest-hit New Hampshire said power might not be totally restored to the region until December 19.

Officials warned there could be more failures as drooping branches shed ice and snap back to their original positions, potentially taking out more power lines.

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

Adding to the misery, temperatures dropped again. Fryeburg, Maine hit a low of —17C. Warmer weather is on the way.

The number of people at shelters in Massachusetts nearly doubled to 1,800 December 13 as people faced another night without heat. Nearly 1,300 people stayed at 56 shelters in New Hampshire.

In Jaffrey, Nancy Caisse tried to comfort her young daughter, sick with fever, while helping elderly guests with medication.

Caisse, 40, trained as an emergency medical technician, said she was glad to be of use.

In Vermont, Green Mountain Power president Mary Powell toured affected areas and said the damage rivalled or even exceeded that of the 1998 ice storm that hit northern Vermont and Quebec.


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