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Maine battles heavy snow

Shelters open as power companies work to resume electricity to more than 50,000 customers.

BY STEPHANIE BACKUS | BALTIMORE | February 25, 2009

Utility workers are trying to get power back to 57,000 customers in Maine on Tuesday after a snowstorm on Sunday and Monday knocked down utility lines.

At one point, 150,000 outages were reported by utility companies, which left 300,000 people in the dark. The utility companies expected all power to be back on by Thursday night.

Crews from other New England states and Canada are assisting Maine electric companies.

According to Lynette Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, the snowstorm brought one to two feet of heavy snow to the central and southern regions of the state.

Miller said the snowfall also caused some trees to fall because it was a heavy, wet snow. She said between 10 and 15 shelters have been opened.

"Several of them are warming centers instead of full-blown shelters," she said. "We've seen an increase in that over the last couple of years because we're finding people don't go to shelters in droves. Being able to go to a warm place and have a hot meal and some company for awhile is attractive to them, so many of our communities have opened (warming centers)."

Miller said many people are still clearing debris from the storm and that in rural areas, it is still hard to get around because of the storm.

While Maine cleans up from a winter storm, residents in Wisconsin and Minnesota are preparing for one. The winter storm is expected to drop 6-9 in. of snow in the region on Thursday. South Dakota is expecting the winter storm to hit on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service is forecasting 4-8 in. of snow beginning tonight and ending sometime on Thursday.

Minor flooding continues to be a problem along the Illinois River in eastern Illinois. Water is still above flood levels, but is continuing to recede, according to the National Weather Service. The NWS said the flooding was a result of recent rain and snow.

Meanwhile in Florida, Pasco County ordered a burn ban yesterday due to very dry conditions in that area. It is the earliest in the year such a ban has been established. According to the county's fire chief, Anthony LoPinto, the county is ranked at 572 of 800 on the state Division of Forestry's drought index. Last year at this time, the county was ranked 300. Last week wildfires in the county forced residents from their homes.

And in New Mexico and Colorado, residents are also being advised not to do any burning without taking high precautions. Parts of both states are under red flag warnings, issued because wildfire risks are high. Dry air and high winds can make wildfires spread quickly, according to the National Weather Service.


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