Hundreds of thousands of people spent a second day without electricity Thursday as utility crews from as far away as Canada and Arkansas scrambled to restore power lost when ice took down trees and limbs in the mid-Atlantic. Forecasters said a bone-chilling cold would remain in place for days.
Nearly a half-million customers lacked power in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In Pennsylvania, where most of the outages were located, officials likened the scope of the damage to a hurricane. Some who might not get power back for several days sought warmth — or at least somewhere to recharge their batteries — in shopping malls, public libraries and hastily established shelters.
One cafe in downtown Pottstown gave about 15 free meals to people without power, encouraged them to plug in devices and even let a few get a warm shower.
“It’s just kind of giving back to the community — there’s no other purpose of this,” said iCreate Cafe owner Ashraf Khalil.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said after an aerial survey of the storm’s aftermath that crews put a priority on restoring electricity to hospitals, nursing homes, communications facilities and sewer plants.
“This storm is in some respects as bad or maybe even worse than Hurricane Sandy,” he said during an appearance in the Philadelphia suburbs. He said a shipment of electrical generators from the federal government was on its way to Pennsylvania.
A rare snowstorm hammered parts of the Pacific Northwest on Thursday, leaving one person dead in a massive traffic pileup on Interstate 5, causing multiple other wrecks, and closing schools and offices.
Forecasters said several inches of snow could fall in Oregon’s Willamette Valley before the storm is over. The central part of the valley — near Corvallis and Albany — could see up to a foot of snow.
The big pileup on I-5 that killed one person and injured others occurred across the Columbia River in Washington state’s Clark County.
At least half a dozen tractor-trailers were involved in the collision on the snow-covered freeway. The massive pileup happened around 10 a.m. near milepost 13, the Columbian reported.