JAFFREY, N.H. - Joined by people seeking shelter from the bitter cold, parishioners at the Jaffrey Bible Church yesterday thanked God for a warm place to sleep and for the utility crews struggling to repair power lines snapped by New England's devastating ice storm.
"Your fellow Jaffrey residents have stepped up and made this a more bearable situation," Walt Pryor, recreation department director for the town of 5,700, told the congregation.
Church administrator Rick Needham noted the "terrible devastation in our lives and homes," recognizing two families whose homes were damaged by falling trees. About 150 people attended the Sunday service in Jaffrey, about 15 miles from the Massachusetts state line.
The church had been turned into a shelter, with cots and mattresses set up in offices and hallways, and televisions and 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles for children in the basement. Donated food was plentiful, including lobster casserole, pot roast and barbecued chicken.
The ice storm knocked out electrical service to 1.4 million homes and businesses late last week. More than 600,000 customers still lacked power yesterday afternoon in Upstate New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
Officials warned there could be more failures as drooping branches shed ice and snap back to their original positions, potentially taking out more power lines.
President Bush declared a state of emergency for New Hampshire and nine of Massachusetts' 14 counties, directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief assistance.
Adding to the misery of downed power lines and property damage, temperatures dropped into the teens and 20s, with single-digit readings in parts of New Hampshire and Maine.
Emergency management officials reported four storm-related deaths. One man in New Hampshire and a couple in New York state died of carbon monoxide poisoning from home generators. The body of a Massachusetts public works supervisor who went missing while checking on storm damage was recovered from a reservoir.
Across the northern Plains yesterday, blizzard conditions made travel hazardous as officials closed major highways and urged people to stay home.
The National Weather Service estimated as much as 13 inches of snow had fallen at Williston, N.D., and about a foot in Bismarck, and strong wind whipped the powdery snow and cut visibility.
Bismarck's temperature at 1 p.m. was minus-8 degrees, but the wind made it feel even colder, Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Ayd said. "You need two parkas," he said.
In Fargo, the sheriff's office said visibility was zero with heavy drifting on roads.
North Dakota officials said a 200-mile stretch of Interstate 94 was closed, along with the entire stretch of I-29 in the state.