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Michigan, Maine cope with cold, dark Christmas

More than 200,000 families were still in the dark and cold waiting for the power to come back on Wednesday, days after a big ice storm. NBC's Ron Mott reports.

Christmas cheer was hard to come by Wednesday in parts of Michigan and Maine, where more than 200,000 homes and businesses remained without electric power for a fourth day as bitter winds and persistent ice from a sprawling winter weather system knocked down trees and power lines across the U.S. and Canada.

Utility crews worked through the holiday to try to restore electricity cut off by a severe ice storm Sunday.

The worst affected state was Michigan, with about 156,000 customers remained without power at 5 p.m. ET on Christmas day, utilities companies said.

About 652,000 customers in Maine continued to lack power, down from a high of 106,000, while crews were putting the final patches on power lines in Vermont and New York state, where outages were in the thousands earlier this week.

"We've had two beautiful, sunny days in Maine and the ice isn't going anyplace," said Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency. "They're very concerned about more weight coming down on trees that are already compromised by ice." 

So far, authorities blame the winter storm for 25 deaths; 15 in the U.S. and 10 in Canada, including five who apparently died from carbon monoxide poisoning. In Michigan, police say a 73-year-old woman died Christmas Eve when she ran a stop light that was out of service because of the ice storm. 

In Canada, about 160,000 customers were without power Wednesday. There were 72,000 customers without power in Toronto, down from 300,000 at the height of the outages, and Mayor Rob Ford said some may not have power restored until the weekend. 

With temperatures far below freezing, ice on power lines was refusing to budge after the severe weekend weather.

Kevin Roth, a lead meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said parts of Michigan were experiencing temperatures between zero and 10 degrees, with wind chills well below zero.

Despite the relentless efforts of crews, he said it looked almost certain that some people would be left without heat and light until as late as Sunday.

Most of the hotels and motels around Flint, Mich., had no vacancies Tuesday night as families poured in from hard-hit towns to be somewhere warm for the holiday, NBC station WEYI reported.

"We knew they were going to be filled up, because we heard there was a lot of outages," Flint resident Tricia Huyck told the station.

In Maine, emergency officials across the state said the ice storm had created the worst conditions since the Great Ice Storm of January 1998, which left some parts of New England without power for months.

"Power outages are far and away the biggest problem," Mike Hinerman, director of emergency services in Washington County, told NBC station WCSH of Portland.

"The biggest thing is life safety," Hinerman said. "When it's 32 degrees out, you can stay relatively warm and relatively safe for a fair amount of time. But tonight, the temperature's going down into the single digits."

In Waldo County, more than 30,000 customers were without power Tuesday night — equivalent to about three-quarters of the county's entire population.

"It's as bad as we've had probably in the last 10 or 15 years," Emergency Management Director Dale Rowley told NBC station WLBZ of Bangor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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