OKLAHOMA CITY - Stan Turner awoke yesterday to find not only was his home without power but an ice-coated tree limb had also crashed into his classic Mustang. The only heat in the house came from a fireplace, a wood-burning chimney on the porch, and a gas stove.
"I've been scrounging all the wood I can," he said.
Turner was among a million utility customers struggling without electricity in the nation's midsection after a massive storm dropped sleet and freezing rain across much of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. The system has been blamed for at least 24 deaths since it developed last weekend.
Glistening, ice-covered roads contributed to many of the deaths. Downed power lines caused dozens of fires in Oklahoma. And then there was the problem of staying warm because officials cautioned that electricity might not be restored for days, if not weeks.
"We have the upstairs fireplace going and the gas burners on the stove," said Turner's wife, Joanie Wilson. "That's it for heat. I'm getting the cider ready for later, and the Captain Morgan's for later, later."
The power outage was the worst ever in Oklahoma, with nearly 600,000 homes and businesses without electricity yesterday. Nearly 350,000 other customers were affected by outages in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.
The storm also caused extensive travel problems. About 560 flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and hundreds of other flights were badly delayed both there and at airports in the affected states.
In Oklahoma, schools were closed for a second day yesterday across most of the state. Classes were also canceled in Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Officials in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma had declared states of emergency. President Bush declared a federal emergency in Oklahoma yesterday, ordering government aid to supplement state and local efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency rushed 50 industrial generators to Oklahoma for hospitals, water-treatment plants and emergency shelters, and 50 more were on the way. FEMA was also providing blankets, cots and prepackaged meals.
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