100,000 homes still lack power

Still no power at the Pearce abode. Naturally, it takes just as long to restore power to three or four customers as it takes to get 100 homes restored. And since our home is one of only two homes that receives power from the main lines up the street, we’ll likley be one of the last to have power restored.

According to mom and dad, it took crews nine days to restore power after hurricane Fran. Hopefully, this storm won’t take as long, for waking up in 30 degree temperatures is getting old.

Here?s a local news story covering our current conditions:

Darkness persists across Triangle

More than 100,000 Triangle homes and businesses still lack power today, four days after an ice storm Thursday, and most schools opened late or remained closed, lengthening the misery of families hungry for normalcy and electricity.

CP&L had said late Sunday afternoon that it would have the vast majority of customers in Wake County restored by midnight. But by Monday morning, 32,000 still lacked power in Wake. As of 5:30 a.m., Duke Power Co. reported about 59,000 outages in Durham, 21,800 in Chapel Hill and 7,900 in Morrisville.

CP&L spokeswoman Julie Hans said crews were surprised by the number of homes with individual lines down.

“They just found so many lines yesterday afternoon and through the night that needed individual attention,” Hans said.

Hans said the repair process has slowed considerably: it now takes as long to restore power to three or four customers as it took to get 100 back on a couple of days ago. The number of outages in Wake County peaked Thursday afternoon at 265,000.

Smarting from criticism that they were slow to respond, Duke Power Co. officials said the storm was the worst in the company’s history. They said they had restored power to more than 725,000 customers in the Carolinas since Thursday and noted that it took 10 days to restore the same number of outages after a 1996 ice storm.

State officials blamed at least two more deaths on the storm Sunday, including that of a 7-year-old boy who died in a Carrboro house fire before dawn. About 650,000 homes and businesses across North Carolina were still without power as of noon Sunday, meaning power crews were only about halfway done repairing damage from the storm.

Durham, Chapel Hill, Orange, Chatham and Franklin schools are closed again today, and all but two Wake schools will start two hours late. Johnston County schools will hold classes at regular times. All Wake County schools will return to normal time on Tuesday.

Wake officials decided Sunday evening that a late start would ensure that schools have time to warm buildings. “That two-hour delay gives us a window of opportunity to make sure we have a safe environment for the kids,” spokesman Michael Evans said.

Two Wake schools — Underwood Elementary School and Centennial Middle School — will remain closed today, but will resume a normal schedule on Tuesday, along with all other Wake schools.

Many parents will welcome the late start, but Apex High School students Jasmine Harrell and Jessica Goodman were hoping for another day off. On a trip to Crabtree Valley Mall on Sunday, the girls said they knew they would have to make up missed days later.

“But for now we’re really enjoying it,” said Jasmine, a 17-year-old senior from Fuquay-Varina. “We’ve been just chillin’.”

Durham officials were not sure when their schools would reopen. About 18 Durham schools lacked power Sunday night, and two others were being used as shelters, spokesman Michael Yarbrough said.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro school officials expect to reopen Tuesday and have set makeup dates: Jan. 21, March 14 and March 28. Three of 14 Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools lacked power Sunday night, but officials decided to wait another day, spokeswoman Kim Hoke said.

“There are some reports of downed power lines, and Duke Power does not recommend our opening tomorrow,” Hoke said.

All 11 Orange County schools have power, but officials decided to keep them closed today because of poor road conditions, particularly in rural areas. Officials don’t know yet when schools will reopen or how students will make up lost days, interim superintendent Mike Williams said.

State officials said Sunday the storm had claimed at least five lives, including that of a Florida Power & Light Co. worker killed Sunday when his utility truck ran off the road near Lincolnton. Three people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in homes where charcoal grills or gasoline-powered generators were used indoors.

N.C. National Guardsmen had knocked on more than 10,000 doors by Sunday evening, checking for people who needed help with heat, medicine, food or transportation.

Gov. Mike Easley sent about 245 Guard members to assist local emergency officials in 20 counties, including Wake, Durham and Orange.

The powerless will continue to improvise today, tending fireplaces or portable heaters or seeking refuge from their cold, dark homes in shelters and hotels or with friends or family.

In Durham County, nearly 700 people showed up at the county’s four shelters Saturday night, and county officials planned to keep two open Sunday night and today. In Wake County, fewer than 135 people sought refuge Saturday night, and county officials kept only one shelter open Sunday.

Those with power may now wonder when their routines will be restored. When will the guests sleeping on the couch go home? When will the cable TV come back?

About 60 percent of Time Warner Cable’s 330,000 Triangle customers were back in business Sunday, with the heaviest outages in Durham, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, said Brad Phillips, vice president for public affairs. Time Warner crews and about 270 outside contractors expect to repair as many as 10,000 downed cable lines in the Triangle region, Phillips said.

Signs of recovery were everywhere Sunday. More traffic lights functioned, though few had been re-timed to smooth traffic flow. People continued to stack limbs and debris along curbs in hopes that someone, sometime, will take it all away.

But it was still possible to turn down a side street and come upon a scene that looked as though the storm had just barreled through. A felled oak, apparently suspended in a set of utility lines, created a bridge over Raleigh’s Gardner Street just high enough to let one car pass underneath at a time.

Forecasters offered Triangle residents and utility crews some good news: Earlier talk of another ice storm this week proved unfounded. The National Weather Service said it might rain Tuesday, but temperatures should remain well above freezing.