Bush declares emergency in icy Massachusetts

Sunday, December 14th 2008, 8:34 am
By: News 9

(CNN) -- A severe ice storm prompted President Bush to declare Saturday that a state of emergency exists in northern Massachusetts, a move that authorizes the use of federal aid to help the recovery effort.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are to coordinate relief efforts in the counties of Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Suffolk and Worcester.

By Saturday night, there were 180,000 customers without power, said James Mannion, deputy public information officer for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The declaration "frees up resources from other states around us," he said, adding that state officials have asked FEMA for cots to be used in 70 shelters, where 1,300 people were expected to spend Saturday night.

In addition, 750 National Guard troops were deployed in the affected area, he said.

Though much of the ice melted Saturday, it refroze Saturday night.

"The big problems here are, obviously, the power outages," he said.

Some towns, like Westford, a town of 16,000 residents in northeastern Massachusetts, had no power, he said.

Officials were working to clear roads so that power crews could get in.

Gov. Deval Patrick declared a statewide state of emergency on Friday in response to the storm, which struck Thursday and continued into Saturday.

Milder weather was forecast for Sunday.