Hundreds of thousands of customers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire are without power this morning, and may not get it back for several days due to the ice storm that slammed the region.
"This is a really extreme situation we are experiencing," said Jackie Barry, a spokeswoman for National Grid, which had more than 250,000 electric customers without power as of 12:30 p.m. today, according to its Web site.
National Grid's Debbie Drew said the power company is still assessing the situation, but "because of the magnitude of the damage that everyone is seeing, it likely will be a multi-day restoration."
Haverhill was hit especially hard, she said, with 14,000 outages as of 10 a.m. Methuen had 11,000 customers without power; North Andover, 7,500; Lawrence, 6,800; and Andover, 4,500. In New Hampshire, she said Salem had 11,100 customers without power; Pelham, 3,900; and Windham 900.
Public Service of New Hampshire reported about 230,000 of the 500,000 homes and businesses it serves were without power as of 8 this morning. The power company said crews have been working throughout the night, and about 180 line crews are expected to be working throughout the day today.
Given the high number of outages, PSNH said it also anticipates that it could take several days to have power fully restored, and said its customers should plan accordingly.
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 today.
"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," PSNH said.
Ice-covered roads blocked by fallen trees during the infamous Ice Storm of '98 isolated entire communities. In Maine, the 1998 storm knocked power out to 700,000 of the state's 1.2 million residents.
Police said anyone without power who needs oxygen or electricity for medical needs should call 911 for assistance. At least one New Hampshire community, Goffstown, opened a shelter because so many residents had no power, or heat, and Derry is also making plans to open a shelter.
Fire departments all over the region responded through the morning to reports of transformer explosions, wires and utility poles down, trees burning on wires or trees falling on homes.
Ice is collecting on tree limbs, weighing them down until they snap and come down on power lines, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The transmission lines themselves are also being iced up, Barry said. She warned against approaching downed lines, even if they don't appear to be live.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.