Millions Still Awati Power After Isabel

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Waiting lines lengthened and frustration mounted Saturday, as people living along the hundreds of miles damaged in Hurricane Isabel's floods and winds realized that it could be days before their next hot bath or home-cooked meal.

The huge storm knocked out electrical service for about 6 million homes and businesses from North Carolina's Outer Banks north to New York, and the extent of damage combined with debris-blocked streets overwhelmed utility crews. More than 2 million homes and businesses were still blacked out late Saturday.

At least 30 deaths had been blamed on the storm, 17 of them in hard-hit Virginia.

North Carolina, Virginia Maryland and Delaware were declared federal disaster areas.

Virginia was hit hardest by the loss of electricity. The state's dominant provider, Dominion Virginia Power, about 977,000 homes and businesses without power when darkness fell Saturday, company spokesman Jim Norvelle said.

Other services also suffered.

"We have phones one minute and then we don't have phones," said Phil Reale, whose home in Williamsburg was condemned because a large tree fell on it. "You're so confused. You really don't know what to do. We're going to have to live on the street."

At Yorktown, a generator that had supplied power since Thursday to 57 residents of the Regency Healthcare nursing home was refueled Saturday just hours before its tank ran dry.

Most people were taking the worst power outage in Virginia history well, Staton said in a telephone news conference.

"Generally people can see, if they walk around their neighborhood, they understand the level of devastation," he said.

The utility had restored service to 24 of 29 affected hospitals, and about three-quarters of the water pumping stations that were down were back in operation, Staton said.

But Richmond, 100 miles inland, is unaccustomed to such hurricane batterings. As service was restored to sections of the city, people stood in lines that snaked outside gas stations, convenience stores, groceries and coffee shops. At intersections where traffic lights were dark, horns honked and gestures were exchanged.

"Its ridiculous. We pay Vepco (Virginia Power) a heck of a lot of money. What are they doing with all that money?" asked Tom Burcher, 60, whose house in Denbeigh, in southeastern Virginia, was still without power.

On North Carolina's battered Outer Banks, which bore the brunt of Isabel's landfall, damage to the island chain's only highway hampered recovery efforts.

The North Carolina National Guard hoped to airlift Salvation Army mobile kitchens to Buxton on Hatteras Island, which was cut off from the mainland because the ocean cut through part of the highway, and to Ocracoke Island.

However, that plan had to be dropped Saturday, said Salvation Army spokesman John Edwards. The kitchens were too heavy for the helicopters supplied for the mission and they will have to be shipped out on barges, he said.

About 300 people were isolated in Hatteras Village, said Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

"We are bringing in supplies as fast as we can. We're sending water, fuel, generators, and we've been getting things in since the morning after the storm," Judge said Saturday. "Their spirits are well. When you get down there you'll see they're a robust bunch of people, and we're giving them all the attention we have."

Federal emergency officials warned of new flooding as runoff from the storm pours into streams.

The South Branch of the Potomac crested Saturday at 9 feet above flood stage at Springfield, W.Va., where early warnings had persuaded many people to evacuate or move valuables to higher floors.

"It's going to be quite unsafe for some time to come, until we manage to finish cleaning it up," park spokesman William Justice said.

On the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore's waterfront Fells Point neighborhood, known to television viewers as the site of the series "Homicide," Nadine Gussino hauled waterlogged cards and other paper merchandise out of her store, The Frame House.

"I've been wiped out," she said simply and began to cry. Water rose 3 feet deep in her shop.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge visited storm-damaged areas in North Carolina and in Virginia, where he walked through the silt-caked streets of the Chesapeake Bay city of Poquoson with Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner.

"Our job is to provide the kind of hope and the kind of support that this and similar communities need," Ridge told Poquoson residents who had been laboring to clear their homes of downed trees.

Bill Boyle extended a sweaty, sawdust-covered hand to Ridge and thanked him for visiting. "We've got some extra chain saws if y'all want to help," Boyle said.


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