MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – Balmy temperatures Monday melted ice-encased trees and soothed the nerves of some northern New Englanders who’ve gone without power since Thursday night’s ice storm.

“Finally, everyone is walking around in the neighborhood. It is so nice,” said JoAnn Trudeau, 62, of Hooksett, who hasn’t had power since Friday morning.

Hundreds of utility crews from as far away as South Carolina worked through the weekend to turn on the lights – and more importantly, power to furnaces and wells – to New Hampshire customers, leaving 168,000 still without electricity. At its peak, the number of outages in the state was about 430,000.

Outside temperatures soared above 50 degrees, making it warmer outside than inside some dark apartments and houses.

In neighboring Maine, President Bush issued an emergency declaration following the storm that left more than 220,000 homes and businesses in his state without electricity at the peak.

Monday’s declaration followed similar actions in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, allowing the federal government to release supplies to Maine. The request covers York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties.

Central Maine Power said about 30,000 homes and businesses were still without power Monday morning. Most of them were in York County in southern Maine. Spokesman John Carroll said CMP expects to have power totally restored sometime Wednesday.

In Sanford, Maine, CMP line worker Steve Johnson’s crew still was restoring power along main lines and hadn’t even made it into any neighborhoods.

“We’re doing everything we can,” said Johnson, who gets peppered with questions from residents whenever his truck arrives at a work site. “Be patient. We’ll get ’em on as soon as we can.”

Even before the storm, Baldacci made a limited state-of-emergency declaration, allowing utility workers to put in extra hours.

CMP crews are working 17-hour shifts, followed by seven hours of rest. “Adrenaline takes over after a while,” Johnson said.

Meanwhile, the Central Vermont Public Service Corp. estimated it will cost about $3 million to repair storm damage. CVPS and Green Mountain Power were reporting about 6,300 customers were still without power Monday morning, most in Windham County.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas is declaring the state’s four southern counties disaster areas because of damage suffered in last week’s ice storm. The state declaration will also form the basis for an application for federal disaster relief funding if eligibility thresholds are met.

Vermont officials estimate it could be the middle of the week before all customers have their power back.

As power was restored, the American Red Cross started to close shelters in New Hampshire. Spokeswoman Lisa Michaud said fewer are needing shelter as the days go along.

“We expect the numbers to drop significantly across the state today,” she said.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch urged residents without power to seek warmth Monday night at state and local shelters. He estimated 780 people stayed in 51 shelters Sunday night.

By midmorning, workers outnumbered shelter residents at Southern New Hampshire University. Many had gone to work, though workers said they expected perhaps 10 back for lunch.

Maureen Hemeon, 41, of Hooksett, asked Michaud for help moving her disabled parents, Clarence Hemeon, 79, and Patricia, 78, out of the shelter to her apartment. The couple had been there since Friday, and Maureen was having trouble finding an ambulance service to transport them.

Michaud of the American Red Cross tried to help, but ran into the same hurdles as Maureen.

“I don’t want him billed for this,” a frustrated Michaud told one ambulance service. “He’s had enough hardship. I need this to be a freebie.”

Eventually, Laurel Center Genesis Health Care volunteered to help.

Trudeau, who spent a night huddled next to a propane fireplace, came to the Manchester shelter to take a shower.

“My grandmother used to take the her ax to Concord by bus to get it sharpened and go home and chop wood for the wood stove. How can we complain?” she said.

In Derry, Tom Guyette was one of three residents of his eight-unit apartment house still sticking it out. The disabled Marine veteran said they had arranged a careful system of running a propane heater for 10 minutes at a time and ensuring proper ventilation, and was using a gas grill outside to make coffee, boiled eggs and Spam.

“We’re still manning the fort. We haven’t been relieved off our duties, so we ain’t leavin’ yet,” he said. “There’s a lot more people that have a lot less than we do, so for us to take spaces where women and children could be is wrong.”


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