CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Power has been restored to most of northern New England homes and businesses hit by last week’s destructive ice storm, though some in hardest-hit New Hampshire faced at least a few more dark and cold days.

“We are talking about multiple days. We are not talking about tomorrow” and for some, the power may not be back on for Christmas, said Steve Johnson, director of energy delivery for Public Service Company of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire utilities reported roughly 74,000 customers still without power Wednesday afternoon, down from 430,000 at the peak of the storm.

In Maine, crews made a final push to restore electricity to the remaining 397 of the 220,000 Central Maine Power customers who lost power. CMP spokesman John Carroll said crews also were ready to respond if more outages occur from cars sliding into utility poles on roads made slick from snowfall on Wednesday. The utility also plans to send crews to New Hampshire.

Vermont’s largest power company said it was down to 850 customers without power, mostly in rural areas of southeastern Windham County. About 43,000 customers were without power at the storm’s peak.

In New Hampshire, crews who have restored power in some areas are being deployed to the devastated southwest corner.

“It will almost look like an army invasion as we take up freed-up resources and send them all toward the western part of the state,” PSNH President Gary Long said in a conference call with reporters.

Long said he believes the utility has managed the unprecedented restoration project well, but conceded it could have passed more information along to affected communities and already has made some changes.

“Following this storm, we will redesign how we mobilize people who don’t normally work on storms to work on storms to assist us in community outreach,” he said.

Long and Johnson disputed criticism that there was so much damage because the utility didn’t trim enough trees.

Long said PSNH has expanded its trimming program over the last few years. They said many problems came in areas where property owners prevented crews from trimming or on “scenic highways,” where trimming is more regulated.

However, Long said, even cutting wide paths on either side of power lines would not have been enough.

“This storm was so large, there is no amount of tree trimming that would have avoided the damage,” he said. “It was just that large.”

Meanwhile, the storm and its lingering aftermath have claimed four lives in New Hampshire, including a Salem man who died after his power was restored.

Police said Alexander Conca, 77, was found dead in his home Tuesday evening, apparently overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from a malfunctioning furnace. Police said there was a problem with the boiler when power was restored to the area earlier in the day.

In Francestown, town officials say a 94-year-old man died during the weekend after falling in his unheated home.

Last Friday, a Danville man died from carbon monoxide poisoning while running a generator to heat his home.

Also, an Epping man died when power went out to his oxygen tank. Neighbors said they assumed 60-year-old Richard LaPoint had left their apartment building during the storm.

Though the storm has inspired countless acts of generosity as people pitched in to help each other, frustration also has emerged.

A Weare, N.H., man was arrested after police said he tried to stop a utility truck from leaving his neighborhood, pounding on the truck and threatening the workers.

Long said workers also face personal hardship as they try to ease hardship for customers, including working 14-hour days, with their own families in the dark.

“Your family is without power and you can’t help them,” he said. “You cannot help them cope with flooding, you cannot get them a hotel. You are working and they’re on their own.”

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