Possible Blackouts Today (expired)

Freeze strains Northeast power grid
Report: Lethal temperatures kill 5 in Michigan
Friday, January 16, 2004 Posted: 9:33 AM EST (1433 GMT)

For Friday morning:
Caribou, Maine: Minus 45 F
Portland, Maine: Minus 35 F
Boston, Massachusetts: Minus 40 F
New York: Minus 25 F
Source: CNN

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) — Temperatures remained below zero across New England on Friday morning after plunging to near record lows, straining power grids and bringing life to a near standstill in some places.

Officials asked residents to conserve energy voluntarily or face rolling blackouts.

The Midwest also is enduring bone-rattling temperatures that proved fatal for five people in Michigan, The Associated Press reported.

Vermont Gov. James Douglas appeared live on the state’s largest television network to urge New England residents to save energy and help prevent rolling blackouts, which may be needed in an extreme circumstance.

ISO New England Inc., the company responsible for maintaining the region’s power grid, is preparing to shut off power to some customers Friday if necessary to keep the grid working.

But early Friday no blackouts had been reported.The weather has created high demand for electricity, and as a result some power generating plants ran out of natural gas Thursday and increased the burden on other plants, according to ISO New England.

Steve Costello, a spokesman for the Central Vermont Public Service Corp., said it would be a first for the region if rolling blackouts are needed.

“We’ve never had to resort to that to maintain the stability of the system,” Costello said. “But there has been very, very high demand in New England today.”

CNN weather forecaster Galen Crader predicts the subfreezing temperatures will remain through the middle of next week.

Early Friday, the wind chill dropped to around 32 below zero in Boston and 17 below in New York, making it dangerous to expose any part of the body to the frigid air.

“These values can produce frostbite in just 10 or 15 minutes,” a National Weather Service advisory said. “If you don’t have to travel or be outside late tonight or early tomorrow, then stay indoors.”

In Maine, where wind chills could dip to 50 below zero Friday morning, Gov. John Baldacci declared a state of emergency in hopes of convincing federal highway regulators to allow longer driving hours for truckers carrying fuel oil.

“These conditions threaten public health and safety and endanger public property if fuel oil cannot be delivered to Maine homes and businesses,” Baldacci’s declaration said.

In Boston, the temperature reached a high of minus 2 degrees Thursday. The city’s largest homeless shelter, which provides 700 beds, has been packed.

But one woman on a Boston street said New Englanders know how to deal with bitterly cold weather:

“Dress in layers, keep moving and just try to have that old, good New England character,” she said.

Water used to douse a house fire in Oswego, New York, quickly became icicles in the bitter cold.
Business was off Thursday at a Waffle House restaurant in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, said cook Sandra Starke. “It’s awful, very cold,” she said. “We just got a dusting [of snow], but it’s so cold nobody wants to come out.”

New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Observatory, which boasts of having “the world’s worst weather,” recorded temperatures as low as 43 degrees below zero early Friday, coming close to the state’s all-time low temperature of minus 47.

Thursday evening, the observatory reported a wind chill of 97 below zero, with a combination of wind speeds gusting at 92 mph and an outside air temperature of minus 39.

“It’s actually very wonderful to be up here, to just be able to experience the weather extremes here that Mother Nature throws at you,” meteorologist Tim Markle said from a weather station on the mountain. “A lot of people don’t like the cold, but we’re loving it up here.”

CNN’s Laura Bernardini, Thom Patterson and Adaora Udoji contributed to this report.

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