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95K without power in Northeast due to ice storm

Ice Storm
CANTON, N.Y. (AP) - A winter storm bringing ice and whipping winds to upstate New York and northern Vermont knocked out power to thousands of customers as officials urged motorists to avoid traveling in dangerously slick conditions.

More than 95,000 utility customers woke up without power Sunday morning in New York, Vermont and Maine because of widespread ice accumulations.

In New York's St. Lawrence County, almost 2 inches of ice had accumulated early Sunday, coating tree limbs and power lines, county dispatch operations supervisor Jim Chestnut said.

Winds were expected to pick up, increasing the chances of outage issues, but a state of emergency was keeping roads clear of hapless motorists, Chestnut said.

"It's a big party weekend, the Saturday before Christmas," Chestnut said. "This put a little bit of a damper onto that."

"Fortunately, there were not many accidents but mainly because people are staying off the road," added County Administrator Karen St. Hilaire.

Up to an inch of ice had accumulated across the northernmost part Vermont, said Conor Lahiff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Burlington, Vt. In Maine, about 5 inches of snow had accumulated in the northernmost counties, with ice accumulations up to a half-inch along the coast, he said.

"It's pretty messy out there. Lots of power outages, lots of trees down," Lahiff said.

Significant accumulations of ice were expected to continue into Sunday afternoon.

National Grid reported nearly 67,000 customers without power in New York on Sunday morning. Spokesman Steve Brady said that number likely will rise. The utility said earlier it could be Monday before service is restored to some customers.

Brady said bulk of the outages were along Lake Ontario, stretching from Niagara and Erie counties in the west to Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties in the north.

He said a light overnight staff restoring power had grown to full contingent by 5 a.m.

About 16,000 outages were reported in Vermont - mostly in the north - though Burlington International Airport briefly lost power Saturday evening. A generator kicked on but service was quickly restored, airport Director of Operations Kelly Colling said.

"We're doing well, surprisingly well," she said.

Maine utilities reported about 12,000 customers without power Sunday morning, mostly along the coast.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland released parishioners from obligation to attend Mass, urging "extreme caution and prudence" about travel decisions.

Even after the storm moves out, a deep freeze is expected to set in.

"If anything, we're going to be trending toward below-normal temperatures through the middle of the week," Evenson said. Highs in the region are expected to reach only the teens on Tuesday and Wednesday with temperatures falling into the single digits or below zero at night.

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