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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Portsmouth, N.H.) - Nearly 100,000 people in Maine still had no electricity late Tuesday afternoon, following a messy weekend ice storm.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage of Maine declared a state of emergency, and shelters were open in many affected communities to give people a warm place to stay. Dozens of line crews from other New England states headed to Maine Tuesday to help their counterparts with power restoration efforts.
Thick ice is still weighing down trees and pulling down power lines. Utility crews are exhausted as they raced to restore power to folks in Maine who are in the dark and may be for a few more days.
"We work 17 [hours] on, seven off," one line worker told WCSH-TV. "I go home at 6:00 at night; I'm back in at 1:00 in the morning."
Maine line workers were glad to be getting some help from New England utilities including the Public Service Company of New Hampshire.
"There's a lot of kids right now that don't have any power," PSNH line worker Justin Fysh said. "No Christmas lights on their Christmas tree."
Fysh said he volunteered to work through the holiday to help his counterparts in Maine connect those affected families. Adding urgency to that big job: temperatures were expected to drop into the single digits across Maine Tuesday night, and become even colder with the wind chill.
"A lot of people don't have heat; pipes are going to start freezing," Fysh told New England Cable News. "The sooner we get up there, the better it's going to be for everybody."
To the western side of New England, in Vermont, where more than 3,000 people still had no electricity as of late afternoon on Christmas Eve, firefighters in Fairfax were going door-to-door Tuesday to check on residents. Green Mountain Power said Tuesday it had restored electricity to about 38,000 customers since the height of the storm response, and were turning their energies to assist the Vermont Electric Cooperative.
The Fairfax firefighters were letting people know about the availability of Red Cross shelters and urging safe use of generators, after the death of a man in Albany, Vt. Monday. That death was blamed on carbon monoxide poisoning from using a generator indoors. Another man in Knox, Maine also was overcome by fumes from a generator and died, investigators there said Tuesday.
Vermonters were also helping neighbors, by lending food and equipment.
"They were saying that if we needed them, we could get a hold of them for water and food supplies," said Kelsey Kaluzenberg, describing her neighbors' offers after she was left without power.
As for the dozens of crews helping connect Mainers, the companies of Northeast Utilities said they are glad to lend a hand to other power providers through widespread outages. Crews from NSTAR and Western Massachusetts Electric Company were joining PSNH in going to Maine Tuesday night, fanning out from Augusta to the east and central part of the state.
"In the business we're in, that's important to get the customer back on. It's what we do," said Paul Ramsey of PSNH. "If you think of the customers who are out of power in that kind of cold environment, the urgency is even greater. We sense that so we'll be sending resources."
NECN asked line worker Justin Fysh if he was disappointed at having to give up his Christmas with his loved ones. He said he would want the help from other utility crews if the roles were reversed, and his mind was on families who were going to be without electricity for Christmas and perhaps a few days after. "It's a good feeling to be able to go help other people," Fysh said.