Thousands Still Struggling with Carolina Power Outages

After an ice storm knocked out power throughout the Carolinas last week, many people are still without heat and are forced to seek refuge in shelters like the high school in East Flat Rock, N.C.

More than 400,000 homes and businesses in the Carolinas -- most of them in northern South Carolina -- continued to cope without electricity on Saturday. Officials say it may be until Tuesday before all power is restored.

At the peak of the crisis, 700,000 homes and businesses were without power. Experts say the storm has caused as many power outages as Hurricane Hugo did in 1989.

Utility officials have had trouble restoring power because of the extensive damage, and because the outages are scattered.

Even worse, many people in the area have wells, leaving them unable to access their water supply when the power went out.

Turning to the Shelters

Vivian Noe and her two children are among those who left their homes to find heat and comfort at East Flat Rock High School. Noe, a teacher, said she had to rely on her survival skills to keep her family warm.

The first night the power went out, she searched for firewood at two stores before finally finding some. She used it to heat her home as well as cook. But she and her two children were so cold that they used up all the wood she bought. That is when Noe decided to go to the high school.

"I know it's been hard for a lot of folks," Red Cross official Michael Williams said. "About a third of the people in this county don't have power."

Williams said that 150 to 200 people have used the shelter and 59 slept there last night. Some people come in for a hot meal and a hot shower, Williams said.

The storm was blamed for the deaths of two people who lost control of their cars on icy roads. Two others died in their homes, and a 4-month-old baby apparently was smothered by his father as the family huddled together to keep warm.

The National Weather Service predicted sleet and snow over the western half of North Carolina Saturday night and Sunday. Thankfully, no more ice is expected, since temperatures should stay above freezing.

The storm has thrown a major wrench in Noe's plans. With her husband away in Durham, N.C., Noe was trying to pack for the family's impending move. Now, the family's holiday celebrations are pushed further back, she said.

"You do what you have to do," Noe said. "It's more important to be warm and fed."