Storms Give Texas An Unexpected Shiver - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/17/07

Storms Give Texas An Unexpected Shiver

A pigeon slides along the ice in downtown San Antonio, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007. A pigeon slides along the ice in downtown San Antonio, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007.
Thousands of people stuck it out in dark, unheated homes Wednesday and hundreds of others hunkered down in shelters waiting for restoration of electrical service knocked out by the snow and ice storm blamed for 56 deaths in nine states.

Nearly 290,000 homes and businesses in several states were still without electricity Wednesday because of the ice, snow, and high wind that battered an area from Maine to Texas, where roads and schools were closed Wednesday.

At the First Baptist Church in McAlester, Okla., where most of the city's 18,000 residents have lacked power for four days, residents huddled under blankets and in front of space heaters.

"If it wasn't for the shelter, I don't know where we'd be," said Tara Guzman, 38, while playing board games with her four children. "We're tough; we lasted when the power went out until (Monday). We brought mattresses out in the living room and cuddled."

Some 92,000 customers still had no electricity Wednesday in Oklahoma. Little sunshine was expected to help melt the ice until Thursday or Friday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Brown.

The wave of arctic air that trailed the storm system helped to kick off more freezing rain and snow Wednesday in Texas, closing schools and some businesses and government offices. Even the Alamo was closed to tourists in San Antonio because of cold and rain.

Houston and San Antonio were under rare ice warnings Wednesday and icy roads in Dallas slowed morning highway commuters. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport canceled 100 flights. The Austin airport canceled 32 outbound flights and 28 inbound, and ran out of de-icing fluid, officials said.

A 300-mile stretch of Interstate 10 in Texas from Fort Stockton to San Antonio had been closed since Tuesday because of fresh snow atop a layer of ice.

Joe and Sarah Stokhaug were turned away from two fully booked motels after I-10 shut down and they and at least 50 other motorists ended up in a convention center in Ozona.

"They have air mattresses and cots for everybody - and pizza and doughnuts," Joe Stokhaug said. "We've already made a couple friends here who are from Los Angeles."

Ozona Assistant Fire Chief Brian Morrow said the town was hard-pressed to cope with the stranded visitors.

"We had about 50 cots in route from Fort Stockton but the roads closed up," Morrow said. "The jailhouse has provided blankets and pillows that are normally used for the inmates."

That same cold air mass icing up Texas also turned the Northeast into a freezer Wednesday, with morning lows of 16 below zero at Caribou, Maine, and 19 above in New York City, ending a lengthy unseasonable warm spell, the National Weather Service reported.

The combination of the temperature and wind in Maine produced wind chills as low as 40 below in some areas. New Hampshire's 6,288-foot Mount Washington registered a wind chill of 77 below.

Eighty-five shelters across Missouri were expected to accommodate more than 3,600 people Tuesday night, according to the State Emergency Management Agency. About 163,000 homes and businesses still had no electricity.

In Buffalo, Mo. - population 2,800 - nearly all stores, gas stations and restaurants were closed Tuesday.

"There are no services," Mayor Jerry Hardesty said. "I've talked to residents who have lived here 50 years and nobody can remember it ever being this bad."

The town lost all its power by Saturday. Water towers ran dry Sunday, and water service was restored only late Monday, after the National Guard hooked a generator up to a pumping station.

Elsewhere, about 24,000 customers in Michigan were still blacked out early Wednesday, along with an estimated 11,000 in New York state and 10,000 in New Hampshire.

Some New Hampshire customers might not get electricity until sometime Thursday.

"With thick ice continuing to coat power lines, repairs are taking longer than normal. Ice-coated limbs and branches must be lifted off lines by manually banging ice off the trees," Martin Murray, spokesman for Public Service Co. of New Hampshire, said in a statement.

Since Friday, the storm system's waves of freezing rain, sleet and snow have been blamed for at least 20 deaths in Oklahoma, nine in Missouri, eight in Iowa, four each in New York and Michigan, six in Texas, three in Arkansas and one each in Maine and Indiana.

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Associated Press writers Marcus Kabel in Springfield, Mo., Jeff Carlton in Dallas and David Tirrell-Wysocki in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.

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