Powerball Fever Crescendos

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And the winner of what may be one of the largest lottery jackpots in history is the lucky holder of the Powerball ticket that reads as follows: 2-28-30-36-39 and Powerball number 10.

Powerball fever reached epidemic proportions across the U.S. Wednesday as the clock ticked down on the enormous jackpot drawing.

With the take already hitting $200 million, hopefuls from New Hampshire to Oregon were furiously buying up tickets. The Powerball record was set in 1998, when it reached $295.7 million before being claimed, while the U.S. lotto record was established last year when players pushed the Big Game jackpot to $363 million.

Jeremiah Drake, 81, put up with three hours of highway gridlock before waiting in the heat for another hour to buy $125 worth of Powerball tickets in Greenwich, Conn., on Tuesday. Asked if the aggravation was worth it, Drake echoed a common refrain: "We don't know yet."

But many Missouri residents hoping to hit it big may have had to sit this windfall out. A severed phone line has shut down about 500 lottery machines from Kansas City to Saint Louis. The disappointment was greatest in Springfield, where all the machines were inoperable. Sprint worked all day on the cut line, and Missouri Lottery officials said they hoped to have the machines back in operation before the ticket cutoff time.

Elsewhere, the prospect of instant riches caused a frenzy. In Franklin, Idaho, the customers lined up out the door at La Tienda, a convenience store, didn't seem deterred by the 1-in-80-million odds of winning.

"I'm swamped. They're spending more money this time around than I've ever seen," said a harried K.C. Spackman, La Tienda's manager. "They're spending $100 a shot."

In Colorado, where Powerball began Aug. 2, about 20 people waited in line at Borderline Lotto & Gallery near the Wyoming border. The sound of buzzing ticket machines could be heard over the phone.

"We are quite busy," said Tessau Gonzalez, the lotto cashier at the store 80 miles north of Denver. "We're going crazy. We just keep running the machines."

As the jackpot continued to swell, so did the dreams of the players.

"It's $5 for three days of dreaming," said Pat Langstraat, 50, a mailroom worker in Des Moines. She said she dreams of an early retirement, a new house and donations to her church, family and friends.

Some residents of Greenwich, the first town over the border from New York, were dreaming that Powerball fever would end soon.

A state law was passed in 1999 allowing Connecticut towns to ask the lottery to suspend Powerball sales for 24 hours if a huge influx of players threatened public health and safety, but that law expired on June 30 and was not renewed.

Police were out in force Tuesday, working overtime to control long lines.

"It's just a mess," said acting First Selectman Peter Crumbine. "They're taking up parking spaces. It's adding to the normal congestion in downtown Greenwich."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.