Rain, ice taper; cold temps stay for parts of USA

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 23, 2013

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Parts of the country socked by a wild weekend storm will be covered with ice — and some without power — through Christmas and beyond thanks to a steady diet of freezing rain and cold temperatures.
The first full day of winter Sunday brought a mix including snow in the Midwest and balmy temperatures along the Mid-Atlantic. Nonstop rain and melting snow led to swelling creeks and streams, closed roads and flooded underpasses in Indiana, Ohio and other Great Lakes states.
More than 390,000 homes and businesses were without power Monday in Michigan, upstate New York and northern New England, down from Sunday’s peak of more than a half million. The bulk, nearly 300,000, were in Michigan. The state’s largest utilities said it will be days before most of those get their electricity back because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.
In Maine, the number of customers without power spiked to more than 78,000, and the cold persisted.
“It’s certainly not going away,” Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said Monday. “In fact, we don’t have very many areas where we’re expecting temperatures to rise above freezing.”
That means untreated roads and sidewalks from the upper Midwest to northern New England will remain a slippery, dangerous mess as people head out for last-minute shopping or holiday travel. Parts of interior Maine were expected to get another quarter to half-inch of ice Monday.
In Maine, Judith Martin was heading from her home in South Grafton, Mass., to Kingston, when she stopped at a rest area along Interstate 95 in West Gardiner. She said roads got worse the farther north she drove.
“The trees are loaded with ice, so it makes me think the road is loaded with ice,” Martin said.
At least 10 deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the storm, including five people killed in flooding in Kentucky and a woman who died after a tornado with winds of 130 mph struck in Arkansas. Another woman died in Arkansas when she lost control of her vehicle on an icy patch of an interstate, state police said Monday.
More than 4,000 flights were behind schedule on the day. The majority of those problems were in New York, Washington, Chicago, Denver, Dallas and Houston.
And more than 275 flights were canceled in the U.S., the bulk of them in Chicago, Denver, Houston and Dallas, according to FlightAware. The number is in line with a typical travel day and much improved from Sunday’s 700 or so cancellations. There are usually more than 30,000 daily flights in the United States.
Delta Air Lines said a taxiway that may have frozen over was suspected in an accident at Detroit Metropolitan Airport early Monday in which an Atlanta-bound jetliner slid onto the grass. No one was hurt.
While the cold will continue to harass people, there’s no major precipitation on the horizon through the end of the week, Curtis said.
“It will give people some time to recover from this,” she said.
Meanwhile, flooding in Indiana and Ohio — parts of which got 3 to 5 inches of rain over the weekend — caused no reported injuries but forced some small-scale evacuations and closed several roads. Flooding in southwestern Pennsylvania damaged about 300 toys that a Salvation Army set aside for needy families, but the organization said churches and other charities donated replacements.
On Monday, some 25,000 customers were without power in New York’s St. Lawrence County, where almost 2 inches of ice fell Sunday, coating tree limbs and power lines.
The winter weather was far from nationwide, though. Record high temperatures were reached in some Mid-Atlantic states this weekend, but forecasts called for drops back to the mid-30s on Monday.