CONCORD, N.H. — Hundreds of thousands of residents in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont were without power Friday as an ice storm dropped trees and power lines all over the region. Taxed utilities say the number of outages may rise, and that they may not be able to get all of the lights back on for several days.
In Maine, more than 200,000 homes and businesses were without power, while hundreds of schools shut down across the state.
Central Maine Power Co. said an estimated 192,000 customers were without electricity as of 10 a.m., and that the number was expected to increase. Bangor Hydro Electric Co. reported 11,307 outages, with the Bangor area hit particularly hard.
CMP spokesman John Carroll said it was too soon to predict exactly when the damage from ice and fallen trees would be repaired, but that it would take several days to restore service to all areas. CMP contacted utilities in neighboring states and Canadian provinces, but Carroll said he didn’t know when assistance would be available because the storm had affected other states as well.
Maine Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Lynette Miller said emergency officials were assessing the situation before deciding whether to open shelters to those without power.
The National Weather Service said pockets of the state got up to 1 inch of ice, which weighed down trees and caused power lines and poles to snap.
By early morning, much of Maine was receiving rain as temperatures rose, but the weather service still was predicting that parts of northern Maine would receive heavy snow, with close to a foot expected in some areas.
Forecasters also said coastal flooding was expected at high tide, in New Hampshire and Maine.
“It’s a mess,” said spokesman Jim Van Dongen at New Hampshire’s Department of Emergency Management.
“A lot of secondary roads are closed, because trees and limbs have fallen on them,” he said.
New Hampshire was the hardest hit in northern New England by the storm that brought rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow through the night. The mix was continuing through the day Friday.
Public Service Company of New Hampshire reported about 230,000 of the 500,000 homes and businesses it serves were without power as of 8 a.m. Friday. In Maine, more than 200,000 homes and businesses were without power.
Utilities in both states said it could take several days to have power fully restored.
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch declared a state of emergency, saying with rain expected to continue and temperatures expected to drop through the day, it is important that the state has all resources available.
The declaration gives the governor the ability to call out the National Guard, which he had not done as of mid-morning.
“If you don’t have to go out, don’t,” said his spokesman, Colin Manning.
“Early reports indicate that the total number of outages from this storm are unprecedented, having already surpassed the ice storm in January 1998, which left 55,000 customers without power at its peak,” Public Service Company of New Hampshire said.
Ice-covered roads blocked by fallen trees during the infamous Ice Storm of ‘98 isolated entire communities and left many people without power for more than a week. In Maine, the storm knocked power out to 700,000 of the state’s 1.2 million residents.
The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative said more than 41,000 of its homes and businesses also had no power around dawn Friday.
At least one community, Goffstown, opened a shelter because so many residents had no power, or heat.
Fire departments all over the state responded through the morning to reports of transformer explosions, wires and utility poles down, trees burning on wires or trees falling on homes.
For many people, the ride to work was like skiing a slalom course, dodging fallen trees, wires and other debris, while navigating icy roads in the pouring rain and sleet.
Thousands more were without power in Vermont.
Mark Bosma, a spokesman for Vermont Emergency Management, says more than 22,000 homes and businesses without power as of 6:30 a.m., most of them in the southern Vermont counties of Windham and Windsor, where ice accumulations were considerable.
More than 8 inches of snow fell in Randolph, 7 in Waterbury Center and 6.2 in South Burlington, according to the National Weather Service.
Vermont State Police in Rutland County said freezing rain and slush and ice-covered roads were making travel hazardous, and they pleaded with people to stay off the roads if possible.