Jesse Ferrell

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Ice Storm Knocks out Power to Over 1 Million

December 12, 2008; 10:43 AM ET

UPDATE: President Bush has declared a State of Emergency in northern Massachusetts.

UPDATE: I'm about to change my mind on how historic this ice storm is... with an additional 200,000 out in New York (thanks Paul), some places such as Bloomberg are now quoting the number as "over 1 million." Check out the Comment below by AnthonyX2 in which I have done some additional research on the Canadian 1998 number. Here are a couple photos from our Photo Gallery users (please upload yours too!):

You know what's interesting is how similar the two storms looked on Water Vapor Satellite.


But, that's what a major Fall storm looks like at the upper levels of the atmosphere (and if enough cold air is present to the Northwest, then the warm air rides up over it and freezing rain prevails, see graphic below). Note that the 2008 storm was slightly further east, so you didn't see the ice destruction in Canada that you did 10 years ago.

UPDATE: Reuters has confirmed the numbers that I had calculated, saying that the total is around 700,000.


Watching the news this morning, and reading a comment from "McHype" in the Southeast Snow entry, the big story is becoming the not the small amounts of snow that fell in the Northeast, or even the 9 inches of snow in the Deep South that I talked about earlier. It is the ice storm. Now, our maps showed ice over a wide area as soon as they were issued, so I don't believe that people "weren't warned" as some blog readers have claimed, although I'll admit that and the general media were not hyping the ice storm at the level that they should have been, based on the stats that I'm seeing this morning.

Jory Fowler of Hawkeye LLC, works to restore power on a National Grid powerline in Hudson, N.Y., Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. An ice storm knocked out power across upstate New York and New England. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

For example, FoxNews says "Public Service Company of New Hampshire reported about 230,000... were without power... said it could take several days to have power fully restored... the total number of outages from this storm are unprecedented, having already surpassed the ice storm in January 1998." Of course, that is one power utility which only covers part of New Hampshire, so the historical reference may not be accurate for New England. The article also quoted 37,000 out in Maine and 22,000 in Vemont. Altogether, that's nearly 300,000.

Now, cut to Massachusetts, where over 350,000 are without power, according to Now we're totalling 650,000, but the 1998 storm was centered in Canada, and knocked out power to over 4,000,000 according to WikiPedia so (unless a lot more reports come in later today) this storm is not approaching that level, but it is a decent number of power outages that probably only happens only once or twice a year in the United States.

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.