updated 9/19/2008 1:42:56 PM ET 2008-09-19T17:42:56

House by house, block by block, utility crews are restoring power lost by millions of customers in Ohio in last weekend's storm, but the improving situation was small comfort to those without electricity for a sixth day.

About 551,000 utility customers remained without power across Ohio on Thursday. Frustrated residents without electricity questioned why some streets and areas remained dark islands amid a sea of brightly lit homes and businesses.

About 2.6 million Ohio utility customers lost power after remnants of Hurricane Ike swept through the area Sunday. At least seven of the 56 deaths blamed on the hurricane were in Ohio, and authorities in Kentucky reported at least two deaths. About 252,000 homes and businesses in Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania remained without power Thursday.

Robert Anderson, who lives in an apartment complex in Cincinnati, admits struggling with some envy and a lot of frustration when he looked from his darkened apartment to see lights shining just a few hundred feet from his home.

Candles and cold water
After about three days of grilling food outdoors, relying on candles at night and bathing in cold water, Anderson said his complex finally got power back. But he questioned utility procedures.

"I wasn't upset that other people had power, but it seemed unfair to hear kids crying in dark apartments around us, while buildings just 500 feet away had lights," said Anderson, 28. "Duke may be doing a good job overall, but it doesn't seem like it should have been that hard to add us on when everyone around us had power."

Duke Energy says its system for restoring power is to return service to the greatest number of customers first, giving top priority to public health and safety facilities.

Circuits make a difference
Crews move from transmission lines supplying power to large numbers of customers and areas to substations before going to lines providing power to commercial areas and large subdivisions and then to those serving smaller neighborhoods. The last to be restored are lines connecting individual homes and businesses.

Some people have power while others across the street don't because they are on different circuits in a system continually spreading out as areas develop, said Duke spokeswoman Kathy Meinke.

In Columbus, some residents with power were keeping other families' food in their freezers and refrigerators and sharing electricity with powerless neighbors through heavy-duty extension cords stretched across the street.

Signs of progress could be seen in the Cincinnati area as fallen limbs and trees were picked up and traffic lights and gas stations were again operational.

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