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Power outage amid freeze in Michigan may last into next week

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 9:06 p.m.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Staring at a sixth day without power in a house as cold as a refrigerator, a frustrated John Johnson finally was able to borrow a generator from a neighbor on 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 the power is back after a weekend ice storm that tore off tree limbs and snuffed out lights from Michigan to Maine and into Canada over the Christmas holiday.

“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.

Michigan bore the brunt of the storm as nearly 600,000 homes and businesses lost power, and as of Friday afternoon, about 60,000 customers remained in the dark.

Maine reported almost 12,000 outages. In eastern Canada, nearly 62,000 hadn't had their power restored, including 33,000 in Toronto.

Tens of thousands of Michigan residents such as 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.

The residents 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 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.

Irvin drove an hour north to Mount Pleasant on Sunday to buy a $500 generator because he couldn't find any in the Lansing area. It powers his furnace and a few lights.

“We couldn't really afford it, but we did it anyway,” he said. “Every day, it's been a better and better purchase.”

Anger was building in Surry, Maine, where one Bangor Hydro customer approached a line crew and made a threatening phone call Thursday on 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.

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