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Rain, ice tapers, cold temps stay for parts of U.S.


Published:   |   Updated: December 23, 2013 at 12:09 PM

AUGUSTA, Maine — A steady diet of freezing rain and cold temperatures means parts of the country socked by a wild weekend storm will be covered with ice through Christmas and beyond.

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, utilities warned that some people who lost electricity could remain in the dark through Wednesday.

“It’s certainly not going away,” Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said Monday morning of the precipitation and cold. “In fact, we don’t have very many areas where we’re expecting temperatures to rise above freezing.”

That means untreated roads and sidewalks from the upper Midwest to northern New England will remain a slippery, dangerous mess as people head out for last-minute shopping or holiday travel. Parts of interior Maine were expected to get another quarter to half-inch of ice Monday.

Authorities reduced the speed limit along a 107-mile stretch of the Maine Turnpike from Kittery to Augusta as freezing rain continued to fall Monday morning and temperatures hovered around freezing. Dozens of flights out of Toronto were canceled while other airports in the storm-hit region were faring well despite the weather.

In Maine, Judith Martin was heading from her home in South Grafton to Kingston, when she stopped at a rest area along Interstate 95 in West Gardiner. She said roads got worse the farther north she drove.

“The trees are loaded with ice so it makes me think the road is loaded with ice,” Martin said.

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 — about half of which had their power back by Monday morning. 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.

Record high temperatures were reached in some Mid-Atlantic states this weekend, but temperatures were expected to drop back to the mid-30s by Monday night.

While the cold will continue to harass people, there’s no major precipitation on the horizon through the end of the week, Curtis said.

“It will give people some time to recover from this,” she said.

On Sunday, the mercury reached 70 degrees in New York’s Central Park, easily eclipsing the previous high of 63 from 1998. Records were also set in Wilmington, Del., (67), Atlantic City, N.J., (68), and Philadelphia (67). Washington tied its 1889 mark at 72.

Heavy snow in Wisconsin forced dozens of churches to cancel Sunday services. Milwaukee got about 9 inches and Manitowoc, 7. Ice and snow in Oklahoma were blamed for three traffic deaths on slick roads.

In hard-hit Michigan, more than 200,000 customers were without power Monday morning. The state’s largest utilities said it will be days before most of those get their electricity back because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

In New York’s St. Lawrence County, almost 2 inches of ice fell, coating tree limbs and power lines, and a state of emergency was declared to keep the roads clear of motorists. As of Monday morning, some 35,000 customers were still without power.

And in Canada, crews were working to restore electricity to about 200,000 people in Toronto following the weekend ice storm, Mayor Rob Ford said.

“We believe that the worst weather is over,” he said.

Ford said 500 people used nine warming centers the city opened, but there was no reason to declare a state of emergency. “We’re not even close to that situation,” he said.

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