LITCHFIELD, Maine - Utility crews from Maine to Michigan and into Canada worked Wednesday to restore power to the more than half a million homes left in the dark by last weekend's ice storm, and people slowly trickled out of shelters to spend Christmas Day at their finally-warm homes.
Not everyone was so lucky, including Ashley Walter, who was forced to spend Christmas at a shelter set up at a school in Litchfield, Maine, with her husband, Jacob, and their month-old daughter, Leah.
The family lost power Saturday, got it back temporarily, then lost it again Sunday and have been without since. Ashley, 27, and Leah stay warm at the shelter while Jacob makes frequent trips home to check on their cats and water pipes.
"It's definitely kind of strange, but we're hanging in there," she said Wednesday of the challenge of being forced out of their home at Christmas. "We did our Christmas together last night. I packed little stockings and gave them to my husband, sisters, and my daughter."
The frigid temperatures that cloaked a region from the Great Lakes to New England meant that ice remained on power lines and limbs. Officials worried that wind gusts of more than 20 m.p.h. could bring down more branches and that 2 to 6 inches of snow in places on Thursday would hamper line crews trying to get to remote spots.
"We've had two beautiful, sunny days in Maine and the ice isn't going anyplace," said Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency. "They're very concerned about more weight coming down on trees that are already compromised by ice."
The ice storm last weekend was one of the worst to hit during a Christmas week and repair crews were working around the clock to restore service. States that weren't hit were sending crews to help.
So far, authorities blame the storm for 27 deaths - 17 in the United States and 10 in Canada. Five people in Canada died from carbon monoxide poisoning from emergency generators powering their homes, while two people in Michigan, a man in Maine, and a man in Vermont also died from the poisonous fumes.
In Michigan, police say a 73-year-old woman died Christmas Eve when she ran a stoplight that was out of service because of the ice storm.