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Parts of Okla. lack power 10 days after ice storm

Thousands of Oklahomans were still without power Wednesday, more than a week after a huge storm coated the state's most populous regions with ice.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Huddled near her fireplace, Marla Carter wondered when Skiatook will be mentioned in news reports about the storm-related power failures that have left her without electricity for the past 10 days.

"It's kind of like we've been forgotten about out here," she said Tuesday. "There is life outside Tulsa."

Carter and thousands of other Oklahomans were still without power Wednesday, more than a week after a huge storm coated the state's most populous regions with ice.

Oklahoma's utility companies expect to restore service to most of their customers Wednesday or Thursday, but the company that provides electricity to Skiatook, 30 miles north of Tulsa, estimated it would be Christmas before 99 percent of its customers were back on line.

President Bush issued a major disaster declaration Tuesday for seven Oklahoma counties battered by the ice storm. Federal funds will now be available to reimburse state and local governments for cleanup and infrastructure repairs.

The two-day storm caused 27 deaths, most in traffic accidents, the state Medical Examiner's office said.

Patience wearing thin
Crews working 13-hours shifts have restored power to all but 32,943 homes and businesses by Wednesday morning. Utility officials said power cannot be restored to some structures until the customers repair damage to connections where electrical service enters a home or business.

In Oklahoma City, city officials on Wednesday announced a pilot program with state and federal agencies to repair damaged residential electric meter bases for free.

In Skiatook, Ronnie Driscoll and his wife have been surviving with a gas stove, flashlights and battery-operated TV, but their patience is wearing thin.

"We're out here in la-la land, and we're the last ones to be taken care of," he said.

"Monday was the first time we saw anybody up here," Driscoll said. "No electrician has been here — period."

Kathy Calico, a spokeswoman for Verdigris Valley Electric Cooperative, said that she understood the frustrations of the residents without power and that the company's goal is to restore service to 99 percent of its customers by next Tuesday.

"If we have to, we'll work Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day, whatever we have to do," she said.

The storm broke about 1,700 utility poles in the company's service area, initially knocking out electricity to as many as 14,000 customers, Calico said.

"We're not used to telling our members they're going to be out a day, and we're on day 10," she said. "The damage to the system is just huge."

Power out in parts of Kansas too
Oklahoma was hardest hit by the storm that struck the Midwest and Northeast last week. In Kansas, where six deaths were blamed on the storm, about 24,000 customers remained without power Tuesday.

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. At least eight traffic deaths were reported in that region.