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Ice storm devastates parts of Canada, U.S. Northeast

frozen statue
New Hampshire ice storm  
In this story: January 10, 1998
Web posted at: 4 a.m. EST (0354 GMT)

(CNN) -- Utility crews scrambled Saturday to restore power to more than 3 million people in upstate New York, northern New England and parts of Canada after a nasty ice storm caused what Maine Gov. Angus King called "the worst power outage we've ever had."

On Friday, King declared a state of emergency for the entire state and told the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to "get out the checkbook" as his state began to clean up and reconnect the 237,000 people still without power.

While emergency crews began the arduous cleanup, and utility company crews sought to restore power across the region, thousands of people huddled in emergency shelters or fortified themselves with supplies to combat the cold.

At the Gray True Value Hardware in Augusta, Maine, the lights were out, but owner Keith Harriman was doing a steady business by flashlight for customers seeking storm-related items.

Ice covers Maine, New Hampshire, and New York.
video icon 1M/26 sec./160x120
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"They want kerosene, batteries, anything to do with heat or light or generating power," Harriman said.

In Vermont, the winter quiet was shattered by the sound of ice-coated tree limbs crashing to the ground. About 500 National Guardsmen were called in to help residents without power in Chittenden County alone.

Nor was the concern just for the 32,000 households across the state without electricity. There were thousands of cows waiting to be milked by machines that require electricity.

"We have cows that have not been milked for a long time," said Gov. Howard Dean.

Record high in New York City

New York
New York
The power is out from northern New York state to the Canadian province of New Brunswick  

Dean deployed the National Guard to help utility crews to restore power, and prepared to spend the night in his office. The governor's residence was one of those without power.

New York City had a record high 65 Thursday and another balmy mid-60s day Friday, but more than 125,000 northern New York residents in five counties were without power for a second day.

"We can't get ahead of the game," said Greg Hudson, a deputy administrator in St. Lawrence County. "As the crews are clearing up one spot, they're watching another tree or pole fall over."

Gov. George Pataki sent 1,500 National Guardsmen into northern portions of the state to help clear debris, evacuate stranded residents and set up and run portable generators.

"There's no water. There's no heat. There're no lights. There's no gas. There's nothing," said Diane Brayton, a coordinator of a Red Cross shelter in Gouverneur, New York. "It's real bad. I can't imagine how people are going to cope the longer it goes on."

In Maine, the harsh conditions tested the mettle of even long-time Mainers.

"As soon as I retire, I'm out of here. I'm moving to Florida," said Jim Chase, a banker in Augusta who has lived in Maine for 30 years. "If it wasn't for this, it'd be 20 inches of snow or 20 degrees below zero."

Town sealed off by ice curtain

Icy tree
In Canada another tree splits under the weight of the ice  

In New Hampshire, 11 communities declared a state of emergency as the ice storm dropped power lines, tree limbs and utility poles. About 60,000 people were without power, and the town of New London was virtually sealed off by a curtain of ice.

The rush to restore power proved dangerous to four utility workers who were injured by falling trees.

And in Canada, the nation's worst ice storm on record wreaked havoc in the five eastern provinces, causing the deaths of 10 people, halting air travel, shutting down the nation's busiest rail corridor and forcing millions to contemplate the grim pleasures of another frigid day without power.

The death toll rose to 10 after police in Montreal discovered an elderly couple killed in one of many house fires and a 90-year-old woman who died of hypothermia after refusing to leave her unheated home.

Like hundreds of New Englanders, Montrealers abandoned their homes to take shelter at community centers and schools.

"It's a disaster," said Colette Fontaine, who was staying at a makeshift shelter in Montreal. "I've lived all over Canada and it's the worst ice storm I've ever seen."

South plagued by floods

In the South, the problem wasn't ice, but as much as a foot of rain on Wednesday and Thursday that caused numerous deaths and widespread flooding.

Northeastern Tennessee was hit particularly hard as floods killed seven people, including a rescue worker, and left dozens missing.

The National Guard needed Humvees to navigate the North Carolina mountains and help the 400 residents of Plumtree, where Roaring Creek -- normally 3 feet wide -- swelled to 120 feet across after a foot of rain fell.

"The storm's movement was a lot quicker than some of the local folks anticipated," said Tom Hegele of the state Division of Emergency Management.

National Guardsmen trucked in fresh water and water purification equipment as utility crews worked to restore power and reopen roads. Rescue crews also located the body of a 25-year-old man who fell from a boat into the rain-swollen French Broad River. A companion was rescued.

It was the second death in North Carolina attributed to the flooding.

Snakes in the well?

Alabama and Mississippi also coped with lashing rains and flooding.

Renee Van Camp, whose home on pilings near Orange Grove, Mississippi, stood in what appeared to be a lake, said she wasn't worried about water getting into her house.

But she said she was worried about the snakes and alligators living in a pond nearby getting into her well, the family's only source of drinking water.

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