MONTPELIER, Vt. — Freezing rain coated parts of northern New England in ice Saturday night as officials urged drivers to stay off the roads and utilities prepared for the possibility the ice storm would cause widespread outages in parts of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.
A quarter-inch of ice had fallen in Burlington by Saturday night with an additional half-inch possible overnight, National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Schiesser said.
As much as an inch of ice had been reported in northern New York’s Saint Lawrence Valley, Schiesser said.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a winter ice storm emergency for parts of northern and western parts of the state. Cuomo also activated the state Emergency Operations Center. Cuomo said driving is expected to be dangerous as the combination of melting snow and incoming rain could cause moderate flooding.
Vermont’s Green Mountain Power and Public Service of New Hampshire were preparing for the possibility of a significant ice storm, lining up hundreds of out-of-state line workers to help restore power, if needed. As of Saturday night, however, Green Mountain Power was reporting only about 100 customers without power and Public Service of New Hampshire had zero outages.
Burlington International Airport had to run on a generator briefly Saturday night after losing power, but electric service was quickly restored, airport Director of Operations Kelly Colling said.
“We’re doing well, surprisingly well,” she said.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said officials are keeping their fingers crossed that the storm doesn’t create big problems.
“We are hoping the impacts of this wet storm will be minimal, but are making sure we are prepared if the freezing rain and icing become more serious for parts of the state,” he said.
Forecasting an ice storm is tricky, said Eric Schwibs, a NWS meteorologist in Gray, Maine. Some towns could see more sleet, while areas to the north would see snow and areas to the south will see mostly rain, he said.
Schwibs cautioned that the timing of the storm could make it dangerous, because many people are shopping and traveling this weekend for the holidays. But, he said the ice storm wasn’t expected to be nearly as bad as the infamous 1998 storm that devastated Maine with up to 2 or 3 inches of ice in some places and left some people without electricity for a week.
“It’s not going to be anywhere on the scale of 1998 in terms of area impacted or amount of ice,” Schwibs said. “This is going to be an inconvenience, but it’s going to be nothing on the scale of 1998.”
In Maine, Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said this morning that Sunday’s weather pattern could still result in treacherous conditions.
“We’re not done with this system,” Curtis said. She said the Portland area, for instance, just switched over from rain to freezing rain as temperatures dipped to 31 degrees.
After a possible mid-morning respite, the freezing rain could continue this afternoon, she said, depending on whether temperatures stay below freezing.
The Augusta region was the hardest hit by ice so far, she said, with 1/4-inch of ice coverage in some areas. Curtis said the ice accumulation varied greatly, and could be different street to street.
Staff Writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.Associated Press writer David Sharp contributed from Portland.