| Thousands lack power days after storm
| Tuesday, December 18, 2007
|OKLAHOMA CITY—More than 90,000 homes and businesses remained without power Monday, more than a week after an ice storm battered Oklahoma, and the emergency has outlasted the ability of many residents to pay for it.
Some depleted their funds stocking up on food before the storm that went bad after the power went out, while others used money to stay in a hotel, thinking power would be restored within a day or two.
"We've had people using generators who ran out of money for fuel to operate the generators," said Vince Hernandez, chairman of the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma.
Hundreds of people found a place to sleep and hot meals over the weekend at a temporary shelter established at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Officials reported 349 people stayed at the shelter Sunday night, down from more than 400 on Friday and Saturday nights.
Oklahoma Gas & Electric, the state's largest electric utility, set up temporary walk-up stations in nine central Oklahoma cities for customers to report power failures.
"We've got eight days without lights," said 7-year-old Josue Velasquez, who came to one station with his mother, Rebeca Rascon, who speaks little English. Josue said they "just sit on the couch and wait for the lights to come on" in their "very cold" south Oklahoma City home.
OG&E reported nearly more than 56,000 without power, mostly in the Oklahoma City area, while Tulsa-based Public Service Company of Oklahoma reported about 24,000. Other utilities reported several thousand more still without power Monday.
Overnight temperatures in the state in the past week have dipped into the teens.
The state medical examiner's office said the ice storm contributed to at least 27 deaths: 16 in traffic accidents, eight in fires, two from carbon monoxide fumes and one from hypothermia.
In Kansas, where six deaths were blamed on last week's storm, about 24,000 customers remained without power, and some of those in rural areas might not see electricity restored for a week or more. The reason is another winter storm expected later this week, said Larry Detwiler of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives.
"We all hope for everybody to be back on by Christmas," he said. "I'm not sure that's a realistic goal."
Margy Knight, who owns several rental and commercial properties in south Oklahoma City that are without power, said she has stopped by OG&E's station every day for the last week and acknowledges she's getting frustrated with the lack of progress.
"I'm trying real hard not to be tacky," Knight said. "I think they're doing the best they can, but they need more manpower."
Rick McCown, a field account supervisor for OG&E, said the company is working overtime to restore power.
"We let them know that we've got people on the ground working to get power restored," McCown said. "We try to be patient with them and let them know we understand their frustration and what they're going through."
While the Plains struggled to put power back on, a swath of the country from the Great Lakes to New England dug out from a weekend storm that dumped 18 inches of snow in some places.
School districts across the region canceled classes Monday. Snow blown by winds gusting to 35 mph cut visibility made driving hazardous. At least eight traffic deaths were reported.
|posted by Moderator Londen time 9:01 AM