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Oklahoma still in the dark after storm

Oklahoma City_Rebeca Rascon bundled up her two children against a brisk wind as she arrived to report power at her south Oklahoma City home was still off more than a week after an ice storm battered the state.

Although Rascon spoke little English, her 7-year-old son, Josue Velasquez, described the house Monday as "very cold."

"We've got eight days without lights," the boy said while his mother zipped up his jacket. "We just sit on the couch and wait for the lights to come on."

More than 91,000 homes and businesses remained without power early Tuesday. Overnight temperatures in the state in the past week have dipped into the teens.

Residents struggling to get by have a new problem to rival dwindling temperatures: dwindling bank accounts. Many have depleted their money on food that has now spoiled, or on hotels.

Some stocked up on food before the storm, while others used money to stay in a hotel, thinking power would be restored within a day or two.

"We've had people using generators who ran out of money for fuel to operate the generators," said Vince Hernandez, chairman of the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma.

Hundreds of people found a place to sleep and hot meals over the weekend at a temporary shelter established at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric, the state's largest electric utility, set up temporary walk-up stations in nine central Oklahoma cities for customers to report power failures. Officials are projecting crews to have restoration completed by late Wednesday or Thursday.

Margy Knight, who owns several rental and commercial properties in south Oklahoma City that are without power, said she's getting frustrated with the lack of progress. "I'm trying real hard not to be tacky," Knight said. "I think they're doing the best they can, but they need more manpower."

Jerry Odom said he's tried to make the best of the situation, attending a Blazers hockey game at the Cox Center and taking a walk through the nearby Oklahoma City Botanical Gardens.

"I'm trying to make a vacation out of it," Odom said. "I'm dealing with it the best I can."

The state medical examiner's office said the ice storm that struck the Midwest and Northeast last week hit Oklahoma hardest, contributing to at least 27 of the 38 total deaths.

In Kansas, where six deaths were blamed on last week's storm, about 24,000 customers remained without power, and some of those in rural areas might not see electricity restored for a week or more. The reason is another winter storm expected later this week, said Larry Detwiler of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives.

"We all hope for everybody to be back on by Christmas," he said. "I'm not sure that's a realistic goal."

While the Plains struggled to put power back on, a swath of the country from the Great Lakes to New England dug out from a weekend storm that dumped 18 inches of snow in some places. At least eight traffic deaths were reported.

___

Sean Murphy, AP Writer, Associated Press writer John Milburn in Topeka, Kan., contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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