Power outages, parcel delivery woes mar Christmas for thousands

All that tens of thousands of people really wanted for Christmas was to have their electricity back after fierce ice storms brought down power lines in a wide swath from Michigan through parts of upstate New York to frigid New England and Canada.

More than half a million customers have lost power since the ice storms, coupled with fierce winds, toppled the power lines, beginning Saturday. Repair crews from utilities across the region, helped by out-of-state workers, toiled to repair the damaged lines, but by Wednesday morning, several hundred thousand customers were still without power.


Repair crews were helped by calm weather Wednesday, while freezing temperatures meant that much of the region was able to enjoy a white Christmas. Light snowfall fell from the northern Plains to New England, although in Michigan, the so-called lake effect caused heavy snow in some spots, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures in the East were running 10 to 15 degrees below average.

Among the states hit hardest with outages was Michigan, where about 150,000 customers remained without power after a storm on Saturday. At its peak, twice as many customers were off the grid.

Michigan's largest utility, Consumers Energy, said via its Twitter account: "129k w/o power this morning as crews prepare to battle snow and wind." DTE Energy reported that 22,000 customers remained without power in its coverage area, which includes Detroit.

The number of customers in Maine without power spiked to more than 123,000 since storms raged on Monday. Central Maine Power, which said it had increased its repair staff to 1,800 overnight, also reported that it had reduced the number without electricity to 53,000 accounts, down from 87,000 on Wednesday morning.

"With the addition of the crews who arrived last night, we increased our counts to 455 line crews and 330 tree crews," Central Maine Power spokesman John Carroll stated. "Today, we'll have at least one full restoration team on every circuit serving every community where we have outages."

Across the border in Canada, Toronto officials said 90,000 customers were without power Tuesday -- down from 300,000 at the height of the outages.

Delivering electricity wasn't the only problem on Christmas.

Shipping difficulties at United Parcel Service and Federal Express prevented some gifts from finding their spot under the tree by Christmas morning.

The delays were blamed on poor weather and overloaded delivery systems. The number of packages affected was unclear, but officials said it was probably relatively few.

"UPS is experiencing heavy holiday volume and making every effort to get packages to their destination; however, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas, so some shipments were delayed," the company said in a service advisory online Wednesday.

FedEx said it was contacting some customers who might be able to pick up packages at their local stores.