While most of Southern New Hampshire remained in the dark, those in the Merrimack Valley were starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel yesterday.
Of the 11,000 Methuen residents left without power following Thursday's monster ice storm, all but 5,966 had their lights on last night. Lawrence was down to 1,580 outages from a high of 6,800, Andover had about 1,900 customers without power, and North Andover just 500.
A state of emergency remained in effect in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire last night as work crews — some from as far away as Canada, Michigan and Virginia — continued battling impassable roadways, splintered trees, and bitter cold temperatures trying to get power back on for some.
At its peak Friday, more than 430,000 customers were without power in New Hampshire, the worst power outage in the state's history. About 375,000 still were in the dark yesterday afternoon. Another 350,000 lost power in Massachusetts, down to fewer than 200,000 yesterday.
"Somebody said to me today, 'It is (Hurricane) Katrina without the water,'" said Derry, N.H. fire Chief George Klauber, whose town had 92 percent of its households still without power yesterday. It could be two weeks before some residents there see power again, he said.
The hardest hit parts of Massachusetts were here in the Merrimack Valley and in Northern Worcester County, National Grid spokeswoman Debbie Drew said. By yesterday afternoon, the number of customers without power in Massachusetts had dropped to about 194,000, according to Peter Judge of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Judge said there's still a long way to go, but work crews hoped to make more progress as temperatures slowly inch up over the next few days and downed tree limbs are cleared from roadways. By nightfall, National Grid was predicting most of the Bay State would be back with the lights on by tomorrow night.
"Our major issue continues to be dealing with this debris," Judge said. "Getting it off the roads and getting it safely off the wires. That's a big part of what's slowing this process down."
National Grid says it has mobilized more than 5,000 personnel, contractors, forestry crews and support staff in response to the storm damage from as far away as Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Washington, North Carolina and Virginia, and that progress was made overnight at key transmission and distribution circuits.
About 172,000 of its customers were without power early yesterday, down from a peak of approximately 295,000.
Lawrence Mayor Michael Sullivan said the storm's cost to his city was "minimal." He estimated it to be less than $10,000, and that money will pay for overtime for city workers. Schools are expected to be open tomorrow.
In Methuen, Mayor William Manzi was not making any predictions yet about school. As of yesterday, only one school had power, and that was serving as a regional shelter.
Methuen Emergency Management director John Santoro worked around the clock from Friday morning until getting a break yesterday afternoon.
"We're doing well, we're managing," he said while standing in the Emergency Management Operations Center at the fire station, where officials fielded storm-related calls.
Neighbors to the north
Some New Hampshire residents could be without power for as long as two weeks as crews work to rebuild an electric delivery system devastated by Thursday's ice storm.
Utilities in the Granite State said it likely will be Thursday or Friday — a week after the storm — before all power is restored in the region, partly because of the sheer number of outages, and partly because of the devastation. Crews all over the region saw electric poles, wires and equipment destroyed. The extent of damage still was unclear because some roads still were impassable.
"What is facing us is the apparent need to rebuild the entire infrastructure of some sections of the electrical delivery system," said Martin Murray, spokesman for Public Service Company of New Hampshire.
Gov. John Lynch and other officials urged New Hampshire residents who might have been considering riding out the outage in their homes to make other arrangements, either at a family member's home or at one of the many shelters set up throughout the region.
While people might pride themselves on being rugged New Hampshire residents, Klauber said most of them have not experienced something like this before. He encouraged people to swallow their pride and not take the disaster lightly.
Matt Chagnon, spokesman for Public Service Company of New Hampshire, could not say when the utility's 203,000 customers still without power would have power restored.
"We're unable to provide an estimate because of the magnitude of the damage," he said.
Some utility workers are coming from other New England states, while others have been arriving from Ohio, Maryland, and Quebec. The company also has hired private companies, such as Ashland, to cut trees and branches.
The New Hampshire Electric Co-Operative reported outages to 944 customers in Derry and 792 in Sandown. Unitil reported 2,800 customers out in Atkinson, 1,200 in Danville, 2,300 in Kingston, 1,300 in Newton and 1,650 in Plaistow.
As many as half of Unitil customers left in the dark could have their power back by tonight, according to Mark Lambert, director of customer services. But the rest of the people are "still looking at days of outages due to the severe damage." Unitil's Hampstead customers had already seen service return, he said.
Haverhill making a steady recovery
In Haverhill, only 4,900 customers were without power by 7 last night, down from 15,000. Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the progress was such that school may be back on for tomorrow.
"The guys at National Grid said they think the power will be back on at all area schools (even outside of Haverhill) by Monday," he said.
The hardest hit areas in the city were the outskirts, including Kingsbury Avenue in Bradford.
"Other areas affected were upper Hilldale Avenue and East Broadway," Fiorentini said, adding that a tree limb went through a house on Crystal Street.
The emergency shelter at the Citizens Center remained opened last night to a handful of residents trying to keep warm. But the mayor remained concerned about others trying to tough it out without power.
"I'm at Target shopping as we speak, and people are coming up to me saying they can't make it through another night without power. I'm worried for people who are elderly and sick," Fiorentini said. "But I'm glad to see everyone pitching in to help their neighbors."
Department of Public Works director Mike Stankovich said by yesterday he and his crew had already made significant progress.
"Most all streets in town are open now. A few areas still have downed power lines, but in those areas, the city is waiting on National Grid to remove the power lines before we can continue to do our work," he said.
He was still unsure just when National Grid would finally arrive.
The department spent most of Friday cleaning up trees and debris in the roads.
"Now we're onto the sidewalks," Stankovich said. "We anticipate that the full clean-up will take two or three more weeks."
All in all, it will cost the town an upwards of $50,000, he predicted.
"Folks have said it's been close to 15 years since they've seen something of this magnitude," Stankovich said.
Staff writers Anna Fiorentino, J.J. Huggins, Terry Date, and Margo Sullivan contributed to this report. Some information from the Associated Press was also used.