DETROIT (AP) — Ted and Angela Montgomery had planned to entertain family and friends this Christmas at their home in Lapeer, north of Detroit. But an ice storm knocked out their lights and heat on Sunday — and it hadn’t been restored by Christmas Eve.
“We’ve just been using our fireplace, using the one in the great room and that’s been keeping it pretty decent,” said 61-year-old Ted Montgomery, who was headed for a shelter in a hotel on Tuesday. “We planned a little family gathering we had to cancel.”
Montgomery was among a half-million utility customers — from Maine to Michigan and into Canada — who lost power in an ice storm last weekend that one utility called the worst during Christmas week in its history. Repair crews were working around the clock to restore service, and they reported good progress Wednesday morning despite more snow rolling into the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest overnight.
So, like Jennings, thousands of people prepared for a holiday at home without electricity or packed up their wrapped gifts and stayed with family or friends.
At his home in central Maine, Doug Jennings had only a propane stove to heat his home — with visitors in town.
“It’s going to be problematic. We’re going to have to do something about it, go to a hotel or whatever,” said Jennings, who lives near Augusta. “But we have Christmas food that’s probably going to be all bad. My wife says ‘I don’t feel like doing the kids’ stockings or anything.'”
The storm also created dangerous driving conditions. Police in Michigan attributed two deaths in a traffic collision Monday to the storm, and a series of crashes involving as many as 40 vehicles during snow squalls on Tuesday shut down the eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 east of Cleveland for hours.
Authorities said the storm contributed to the deaths of 14 people across the region, including a 50-year-old man who was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from a generator in Knox, Maine.
The number of customers in Maine without power spiked to more than 100,000 on Tuesday, though the number had dropped to 70,000 by Wednesday morning. Central Maine Power said its goal was to use more than 1,000 workers to restore power for all customers by Thursday night, while other utilities in Maine warned customers they could be without electricity until Friday.