More than 100,000 people remain without power Thursday, days after an ice storm hit the upper Midwest and swept through western Maine. With power companies struggling through harsh winter conditions, service might not be fully restored until the weekend. In the meantime, some customers are taking refuge in hotels and emergency shelters to remain warm.
Christmas Day temperatures fell to minus-24 degrees F in upper Michigan, according to the National Weather Service, with ice covering power lines and tree branches. The state’s largest utility, Consumers Energy, reported Thursday that 89,250 customers are without power, which represents nearly 20 percent of the company’s entire consumer base. During the storm’s peak early Monday, more than 500,000 customers from the Midwest to Maine were without power.
The mass outages in Michigan are the largest for Christmas week in the company's 126-year history. Workers from as far away as Georgia and North Carolina are en route to Flint, Mich., which was hit hardest by the storm. To date, 17 people in the United States have died as a result of the storm, with an additional 10 in Canada.
According to the Flint Journal, some families spent Christmas morning in area hotels. Jill Ghantous and her young children moved from their Swartz Creek, Mich., home to a Wingate by Wyndham hotel late Tuesday. Along with purchasing a small tree for the room, the family hung a sign on the window to let Santa know they relocated, and they hung their stockings on the dresser.
“I guess we can kind of pull Christmas out of nothing. You just get resourceful and try to make it the best you can,” Ms. Ghantous said.
After hitting Michigan, the frigid air moved west into northern New England and Canada. In Maine, about 123,000 Central Maine Power Company customers lost power earlier this week; by Thursday, about 30,000 households remained in the dark. The company says it aims to restore all power by Thursday evening but warns that it may not be possible.
Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service says that its 101,000 outages in the eastern part of the state are the largest number since 1998. By late Wednesday, about 17,000 of its customers remained without power.
While temperatures in Maine will rise Friday to freezing, or slightly above, according to the National Weather Service, that will not be enough to melt the ice. Also complicating recovery is a storm expected Thursday evening that will bring 3 to 6 inches of accumulation across the eastern part of the state, according to AccuWeather.
“We’ve had two beautiful, sunny days in Maine and the ice isn’t going anyplace. They’re very concerned about more weight coming down on trees that are already compromised by ice,” Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, told the Associated Press Thursday.
The storm also hit neighboring states. Heavy ice cut power to 900 Vermont households Wednesday; about 700 remain without power Thursday, according to the Vermont Electric Cooperative, which does not expect full restoration until the weekend.
“My heart goes out to the families who are struggling to get by without electricity. This storm has been frustrating for all involved,” Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a statement Wednesday.
With recovery efforts in all areas affected by the ice storm expected to wrap up by Saturday, a second wave of winter weather is expected Sunday night and Monday. AccuWeather forecasts snow showers and heavy winds through Michigan late Sunday while a separate storm moving up the eastern seaboard is expected to dump heavy snow in eastern Maine.