- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2002

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Utility repair crews made more progress yesterday in restoring electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers blacked out by a major ice storm, as National Guard troops searched for people needing help.
Gov. Michael F. Easley went on a three-city tour yesterday to survey damage from one of the worst winter storms in state history before he was able to get a good look at his own home.
One of the places on Mr. Easley's itinerary in Charlotte was a shelter where 84-year-old Anne Mills was playing checkers with 7-year-old Steve McCorkle.
"I've been here since the morning of the storm, and I sure want some clean clothes," Mrs. Mills said.
Temperatures climbed into the 40s for a second day, helping to melt ice remaining from the storm that arrived Wednesday on a path that took it from the southern Plains into the Northeast. At least 27 deaths, including five in North Carolina, were blamed on the storm.
Some 300 National Guard volunteers fanned out yesterday into some of the hardest-hit areas to knock on doors and ask residents whether they had heat or power.
"That's why we've got the Guard out: We don't know if people are getting the information or not. They don't have televisions, and a lot don't even have a radio with batteries," the governor said.
Friday night 2,028 persons stayed in 67 shelters across the state as temperatures dropped into the teens in some places.
Utility officials said they had made progress at fixing broken power lines, but nearly 1.1 million customers homes and businesses remained without electricity yesterday in North and South Carolina.
Utility officials acknowledged Friday that many customers wouldn't have power back until Wednesday.
Duke Power said it had about 720,000 customers in North Carolina and 130,000 in South Carolina without power. Carolina Power & Light had 240,000 North Carolina customers without power.
The National Guard troops were cruising streets and knocking on doors, Capt. Robert Carver said.
"What we're asking people is pretty simple. 'Do you have heat? Do you have power? Do you want to go to a shelter? If you do want to go to a shelter, do you have a way to get there; do you have transportation?'" Capt. Carver said.
Local governments would supply transportation to the shelters they are operating, Capt. Carver said.
Finding guardsmen to help was easy, Capt. Carver said.
"As soon as the word went out in the media that we're doing this, they called to see how they could get in on this mission," he said.
Mrs. Mills had resisted moving from her home of 52 years, where she lives alone. She called the fire department Thursday to ask for a blanket and a cup of hot coffee. Firefighters, who knew her from previous calls for help, warned her that she'd freeze to death if she stayed in her unheated home.
"They said, 'This is one time you're going,'" Mrs. Mills said. "They were the sweetest, nicest I've never known anybody as nice as those firemen."
The governor's mansion suffered no structural damage from tree limbs brought down by the heavy ice, but Mr. Easley said he hadn't had time to fully inspect his own home in Raleigh.
"It's holding up a couple of trees," Mr. Easley said.
He said he had only driven past the property and didn't know what damage the trees caused.

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