Winter coats may be on everyone’s Christmas list throughout the northeast and midwestern United States, but the real gift will just be getting to Grandma’s house for Christmas at all. A killer ice storm ravaged those regions over the weekend and into Monday, leaving hundreds of thousands shivering and without electricity.
The storm has so far claimed 11 lives, according to Associated Press reports, and is slamming into Canada as hard as the U.S. Some 115,000 are without power in Toronto alone, and many will have to make do without it through Christmas.
Below the border, 400,000 homes and businesses were without power throughout Michigan, upstate New York, and northern New England, a NBC News report stated. Of those states, Michigan has been the worst hit as thousands of residents there won’t be able to turn on the Christmas tree lights, or any lights at all, at least until Thursday.
If anyone needs to be wearing winter coats over the next day or two or even three, it’s workers for local power companies. They can expect to spend the holidays outdoors in the cold until they get the electricity flowing to customers again.
In Michigan, one major electric company, DTE, vowed to keep its workers going “around the clock” to bring back power by tonight, Christmas Eve, for up to 90 percent o its 83,000 customers.
But more than 200,000 customers of a larger Michigan power provider, Consumers Energy, do not have such an optimistic prognosis.
“We might be spending Christmas at a middle school,” said Dawn Bishop, a customer in Dutton, Michigan whose power went out Sunday, with no projection as to when it will come back on. In the meantime, her family is in the hands of the Red Cross. But she remains cautiously upbeat. “I’m sure we’ll be home by New Years.”
Michigan got socked with a half-inch of ice over the weekend.
“A quarter inch of ice is pretty damaging. When you talk about a half inch, that’ll take down trees and power lines,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Brian Hurley said.
In Maine, where temperatures continue to sit in the teens and 20s, 78,000 people remain without power Tuesday.
“It’s certainly not going away,” Margaret Curtis, another National Weather Service meteorologist told the Associated Press. “In fact, we don’t have very many areas where we’re expecting temperatures to rise above freezing.”
And don’t count on leaving the winter coats behind to escape to a warmer climate. More than 300 flights were cancelled Monday, and 5,500 were running late after 700 flights experienced weather-related cancellations Sunday.