CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Thousands of New Hampshire homes and businesses were without power Tuesday and more outages were likely with strong winds blowing ice-laden limbs.

The ice storm left more than 50,000 homes and businesses without electricity overnight Monday. Line crews worked to reduce the number to about 12,300 by late Tuesday night, even though they were facing a tough day.

The area still most affected by Monday’s ice storm stretches from the Manchester area in the north, to Nashua in the south, to Keene in the west.

Public Service Company of New Hampshire, the state’s largest utility, said it expects that the bulk of customers in the southern part of the state will have power restored by mid-evening Wednesday.

“For customers in the greater Keene/Monadnock region, hit very hard by the ice storm, it could take well into Thursday before power is restored,” utility spokeswoman Mary-Jo Boisvert said in a statement.

She said since the start of the storm on Monday, crews have repaired about 575 of the 880 individual problem areas reported.

Earlier, PSNH said the main challenge was dealing with the sub-zero temperatures overnight and ridding the power lines of ice-draped trees.

At Unitil, spokeswoman Stephanye Schuyler said 5,500 homes and businesses lost power, mostly in the Seacoast area. By Tuesday night, 900 customers, mostly in Kingston, Plaistow, Atkinson and Danville, were out of service.

“We are concerned about those winds,” said Schuyler.

She said even if the temperatures rise, more outages could come as ice melts and falls onto power lines.

“It’s the kind of storm where you can’t win,” she said.

In the Salem area, National Grid said it was working Tuesday to restore power to about 500 customers, down from about 5,700.

And the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative reported about 300 members still without power Tuesday morning, down from a high of about 1,000, mostly in the Raymond area.

Scores of school districts either called off classes Tuesday or delayed opening.

The outages were concentrated in the southern and southwestern parts of the state, where a mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain coated roads, trees and power lines with ice.

Most of the outages were in the Manchester and Nashua areas, where vehicles sliding off icy roads hit utility poles and tree branches fell on power lines. The towns of Derry, Londonderry, Hudson and Windham also were affected, as was the Seacoast region.

In Nashua, the Red Cross opened a regional emergency shelter at the Nashua South High School. Some residents of a Hollis mobile home park that lost power stayed for the night. Five people stayed overnight at a shelter in Londonderry.

The weather also affected air travel, causing delays for airplanes to be deiced at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and canceling some flights. Travelers arriving from warmer locations Monday had a rude welcome and had to chisel their way into cars that were coated with up to a half inch of ice.

It snowed in the North Country, leaving 8 inches in Dixville Notch, 6 inches in Columbia, 5 inches in Colebrook, and 2 inches in North Conway. Ski areas and northern businesses dependent on snowmobiling received some accumulation before the snow turned into sleet. Bretton Woods reported 3.5 inches, Waterville Valley and Cannon Mountain had 3 inches, and Attitash and Loon Mountain reported 2 inches.

On Tuesday night, arctic air is expected to settle into New England, bringing the coldest temperatures yet over New Hampshire, with readings dropping into single digits and below. Forecasters expect it to stay cold through Wednesday night before warming on Thursday.

AP-ES-01-16-07 2317EST