Bitter Cold, No Power For Many After Ice Storms

1:48 PM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
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By John Bacon and Tammy Stables Battaglia, USA TODAY

Hundreds of thousands of people from Michigan to Maine remained without power on a bitter cold Monday after an ice storm blasted its way across the country dumping two inches of ice in some places.

Almost 300,000 power customers in Michigan alone remained without power Monday. Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop said some customers could be without power on Christmas Day or longer. The current outages are down from nearly 400,000 customers who were without power after the storms hit, according to the utility companies.

Monday's forecast for a high temperature below freezing; Tuesday's high was forecast at 21 degrees.

"It's going to be a challenging week," said Bishop, who added that crews were coming in from several states to aid in power restoration. "We'll be making progress over the next couple of days, but the hardest hit areas, it'll be the end of the week.

"We encourage people to find shelter, get with a family member that has heat and electricity. We'll be working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army to make sure people have what they need."

In Burlington, Vt., temperatures are expected to rise to 35 or 36 Monday but the "heat wave" will be short-lived, National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Banacos said.

"It looks like 16 (degrees) for Christmas," he said. "The 2 or 3 inches of ice are not going away. There is not enough time."

In addition to ice in the north, the storm system brought hammering wind and rain to the South, leaving at least nine people dead. But holiday travelers may still face slick roads as the system douses the Southeast with heavy rainfall, said Frank Strait, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.

The weather should calm by Christmas Eve, though the Midwest and East Coast likely will see freezing temperatures colder than normal.

A "cold arctic air mass is going to settle in behind the front,'' Strait said. "Across parts of the Midwest, a lot of people will be in single digits and teens for highs. That's well colder than normal.''

The weekend storm was a study in extremes. Its northern edge featured sleet and freezing rain that sparked travel advisories in New York and New England. Several inches of snow fell from Wisconsin to Oklahoma. On the other hand, many eastern cities saw record high temperatures.

The storm was also deadly. Five people were killed in flooding in Kentucky, and a woman died after a tornado with winds of 130 mph struck Saturday in Arkansas. Ice and snow in Oklahoma were blamed for three traffic deaths on slick roads.

In Mississippi, one man died after his mobile home overturned in the and another died when his car hit a tree that had fallen across a county road.

At least five people were injured and two dozen homes damaged in Arkansas.

Tammy Stables Battaglia also writes for the Detroit Free Press.

Contributing: Charisse Jones; Mike Donoghue, Burlington Free Press; Associated Press

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