- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Thousands were still without power across the Northeast yesterday as temperatures plummeted after a storm with hurricane-force wind gusts that was blamed for four deaths.

Wind was still blowing at about 30 mph through the region yesterday. On Friday, winds of more than 60 mph buffeted the Rochester area and a 77-mph gust was recorded at the city’s airport, the weather service said.

The storm swept out of the Midwest on Friday, carrying a wave of bitterly cold air. Temperatures in some parts of western New York plunged from 60 degrees to below freezing within a few hours. In Hayward, Wis., the morning low yesterday was 26 below zero and afternoon temperatures in the upper Midwest were only in the single digits. Parts of Arkansas had 5.5 inches of snow and freezing temperatures extended across the state.

Utility officials in upstate New York said crews would work through the weekend to restore power to 160,000 customers, down from at least 328,000 customers who were blacked out Friday.

More than 40,000 homes and businesses had no electricity in New Hampshire, where shelters offered residents a haven with light and heat as temperatures were expected to drop below zero during the night.

More than 35,000 homes and businesses were without power yesterday in Maine. Vermont, where the National Weather Service reported a wind gust of 143 mph on Stratton Mountain, had about 12,000 customers without power, and about 1,800 customers were blacked out in Massachusetts.

In Michigan, about 52,000 customers were still without power yesterday because of damage caused by 60-mph wind. Some homes and businesses were expected to remain blacked out until tomorrow.

The wind toppled trees in many areas.

Alfred Binder, 87, was unhurt when a huge tree fell across a road and hit his car in Laconia, N.H.

“I swerved to the left, but I couldn’t miss it,” Mr. Binder told WMUR-TV. “I tried.”

A falling tree crushed a car outside Rochester, killing a 52-year-old woman, and another killed a state worker in a truck at Saratoga Spa State Park. A falling tree killed the driver of a pickup at Billerica, Mass. East of Rochester, a man was killed when his vehicle slammed into a tractor-trailer rig whose driver had stopped to clear storm debris from his windshield.

A dozen youngsters narrowly escaped injury in Gorham, 25 miles southeast of Rochester, when a tree heavily damaged their school bus.

Wind also knocked out a 12th-floor window in a high-rise office building in Syracuse, and falling debris barely missed passers-by, police said. Broken glass crashed onto a sidewalk in Binghamton when wind gusting above 50 mph damaged windows on the upper floors of an eight-story building. No one was hurt.

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