Tens of Thousands Still in Dark in Oklahoma After Storm

Rebeca Rascon's two children were bundled up against the brisk wind when she went to report power was still off at her south Oklahoma City home more than a week after an ice storm battered the state.

Rascon speaks little English, but her 7-year-old son, Josue Velasquez, described the house Monday as "very cold."

"We've got eight days without lights," the boy said. "We just sit on the couch and wait for the lights to come on."

More than 88,000 homes and businesses remained without power early Tuesday. Overnight temperatures in the state in the past week have dipped into the teens.

Many residents have a new problem to rival dwindling temperatures: dwindling bank accounts. Some have spent their money to stay in hotels, thinking power at home would be restored within a day or two, or depleted their funds by stocking up before the storm on food that has now spoiled.

"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.

Utility crews estimated that crews would have power restored to the rest of their customers by late Wednesday or Thursday, more than a week after the storm struck.

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.

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.

Margy Knight, who owns several rental and commercial properties in south Oklahoma City that are without power, said 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."

Jerry Odom said he's tried to make the best of the situation, attending a Blazers hockey game at the Cox Center and taking a walk through the nearby Oklahoma City Botanical Gardens.

"I'm trying to make a vacation out of it," Odom said. "I'm dealing with it the best I can."

Oklahoma was hardest hit by the ice storm that struck the Midwest and Northeast last week. The state medical examiner's office said the storm contributed to at least 27 of the region's 38 total deaths.

In Kansas, where six of those 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."

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.