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Thousands Still Without Power As More Snow On Way To Northeast

As efforts continued Saturday to restore power to residents across much of the Midwest and Northeast after an debilitating ice storm, more snow is projected to accumulate Sunday night, officials said.

The new snow will hit weather-battered New England when moist air from the south collides with a cold air from the north Saturday into Sunday, according to the Weather Channel.

But thousands of residents from Michigan to Maine and even into Canada have been without electricity for six days, which forced many to ring in the holidays in the safety of a shelter.

On Saturday evening, an estimated 21,371 were still without power — and while many are just hoping that they won't have to usher in 2014 in the dark, progress was being made.

At the height of the outage on Monday night, 210,000 homes and businesses in Michigan were without power, Brian Wheeler, spokesman for Consumers Energy, told NBC News.

That number had significantly dropped, he said, to 14,905, by Saturday evening. Wheeler anticipated full restoration of power to their customers by the end of Saturday.

A frustrated John Johnson finally was able to borrow a generator from a neighbor Friday.

He "never in a million years" thought his tree-lined city neighborhood near Michigan State University would be without electricity this long. But it could be Sunday or even the middle of next week before his power is back after a weekend ice storm that tore off tree limbs and snuffed out lights.

"Hopefully, I make it through without any frozen pipes until the (utility) gets in here," said Johnson, 63, as he tried setting up the generator to warm up the house above 40 degrees before giving it back to his neighbor.

Tens of thousands of Michigan residents like Johnson are the unlucky ones still waiting. Some have abandoned their homes to stay elsewhere. Others are riding it out, either by choice — not wanting to leave pets or unattended houses — or because they have nowhere else to go.

Their Christmas plans were ruined or inconvenienced, and now their frustration is boiling over. They know the storm was bad and appreciate the around-the-clock efforts of line crews, but in East Lansing, for instance, residents are questioning the response by the local municipal utility.

"Where's the money going? The money we pay in power bills, the money that they spend to cut these trees down to keep the power lines open doesn't seem to really be working, in my mind," said Jon Irvin, 35.

In Maine, emergency officials say the number of power outages have been greatly reduced, but it could be next week before some parts of the state get electricity back, NBC affiliate WCSH reports.

Bangor Hydro Electrical Company said it may be New Years day before all of its customers see their power restored. On Saturday evening, an estimated 6,466 customers remained without power state-wide.

Yet, utility workers across New England are bracing for cold wind and snow on Sunday as they rush to restore power to homes.

Utility company linemen face a dangerous and physical task: Ice can weigh down power lines so much that they break, or tree branches can fall and take the lines with them. So, the linemen must clear some debris, if needed, and then shimmy up slick utility poles to restring lines — using belts and spiked boots.

"You have to take your time. You have to watch what you're doing," said Tony Carone, a 52-year-old lineman for Detroit-based DTE energy, who on Thursday working in Columbiaville. "It's not a good feeling — climbing up an icy pole."

In Surry, Maine, one Bangor Hydro customer approached a line crew and then made a threatening phone call Thursday after learning the crew wasn't working on the circuit necessary to restore his power. The utility temporarily had the crew leave the area until police investigated. No charges will be filed against the man, state police said.

Crime is being reported in isolated areas where families have abandoned their homes.

In Lansing, Mich., police were investigating at least two burglaries at homes where the occupants left after their power went out, according to news reports.

But those incidents appear to be isolated. Police in other parts of Michigan and in Maine said Friday they had no reports of storm-related break-ins.

Major Joel Maatman, with the Ingham County sheriff's office in Michigan, said residents in rural areas — like many hit by the storm — have past experience with bad weather and had generators that allowed them to stay in their homes.

"I've been here since 1975 and I don't remember an ice storm like this," said Maatman, who used a portable generator and wood-burning stove for power and heat. "I live out in the sticks, and you got to have a generator."

But "out-county where there is a lot of farming and open land, I think it's always on every police officer's mind that crime can occur," he added.

Authorities blame last weekend's storm for 17 deaths in the U.S. and 10 in Canada. At least five of those deaths have been initially attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning related to using generators.


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