Winter brings snow, ice, outages
By HOLLY RAMER
CONCORD, N.H. -- After the first full day of winter brought everything from balmy temperatures along the Mid-Atlantic to snow in the Midwest and ice, snow and flooding in the Great Lakes, some people could be left in the dark for Christmas.
Much of the foul weather that occurred Sunday has lessened or disappeared entirely, but the harsh aftereffects were expected to linger.
Brad Hoving, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, Mich., said most people were without power in some counties between Grand Rapids and Lansing, Mich. Some might not have electricity until Wednesday or even Thursday, he said.
"It's a big deal," Hoving said. "It's Christmas, and we've just had a major ice storm," with trees toppling over and ice-covered power lines.
By late Sunday, ice and snow had knocked out power to 440,000 homes and businesses in Michigan, upstate New York and northern New England -- approximately half of whom had their power back by early today. The storm also left more than 400,000 customers without electricity in eastern Canada.
At least nine deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the storm, including five people killed in flooding in Kentucky and a woman who died after a tornado with winds of 130 mph struck in Arkansas. Five people were killed in Canada in highway accidents related to the storm.
By late Sunday, nearly 700 flights nationwide had been canceled and approximately 7,200 were delayed, according to aviation tracking website FlightAware.com.
But flights were mostly running on schedule this morning.
During one of the nation's busiest travel times, icy weather was expected to make roads slick and hazardous through at least today from the upper Midwest to northern New England.
Record high temperatures were reached in some Mid-Atlantic states this weekend, but temperatures were expected to drop back to the mid-30s by tonight.
On Sunday, the mercury reached 70 degrees in New York's Central Park, easily eclipsing the previous high of 63 from 1998. Records also were set in Wilmington, Del., (67), Atlantic City, N.J., (68), and Philadelphia (67). Washington tied its 1889 mark at 72.
The scene was much more seasonal Sunday in Vermont, where Lynne White of West Charleston listened to the cracking of falling tree branches and gazed at the coating of ice on her home.
"It's actually really pretty," she said. "Not safe, I'm sure, but it's pretty."
Heavy snow in Wisconsin forced dozens of churches to cancel Sunday services. Milwaukee got approximately 9 inches and Manitowoc, 7. Ice and snow in Oklahoma were blamed for three traffic deaths on slick roads.
In New York's St. Lawrence County, approximately 2 inches of ice had accumulated by early Sunday, coating tree limbs and power lines, and a state of emergency was declared to keep the roads clear of motorists.
"It's a big party weekend ... before Christmas," county dispatch operations supervisor Jim Chestnut said. "This put a little bit of a damper onto that."
Despite a glaze of freezing rain in Maine, plenty of shoppers ventured to the outlet malls in Kittery on the last weekend before Christmas. In Canada, crews struggled to restore service to those without power in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.