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Power Outage Still Widespread Thousands In Nebraska, Michigan Cope For 4th Day After Early Storm

Thu., Oct. 30, 1997

Ralph Medina’s featherbed comforter is too hot to use when the heat is on, but it’s been just right since Sunday, when a snowstorm across the Rockies and the Plains knocked out the electricity to tens of thousands of homes.

To cope with the cold and lack of light, Medina and his wife go out to eat at night. When they come home, they go straight to bed.

“What else can you do?” he said Wednesday.

The weekend storm was blamed for 17 deaths in seven states. Colorado was saddled with nearly 4-1/2 feet of snow, Nebraska received 23 inches and Michigan got up to 8 inches. Livestock officials in Kansas estimated that up to 20,000 cattle were killed in the storm, with dollar losses in the millions.

An estimated 32,000 Nebraska electric customers - mostly people in homes in Omaha and Lincoln - coped Wednesday for a fourth day without power or telephones since the storm swept through.

About 35,000 homes and businesses in Michigan remained without power. The Kalamazoo area was the worst hit, with some 17,000 customers expected to be without service until Friday.

In Nebraska, utility officials said power may not be restored until Friday at the earliest - and maybe not until early next week. It could be mid-November before telephone service is completely restored.

In one indication of how bad things have gotten in Lincoln, the mayor of this football-crazy city begged gridiron fans arriving for Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and top-ranked Nebraska to donate their hotel rooms to storm victims who are still without electricity.

Of the city’s 3,300 hotel and motel rooms, more than 2,200 were occupied Wednesday. Many of the people checked in because they have no heat at home. Hundreds of others have gone to Red Cross shelters.

In Kalamazoo, said Shaun Brehm, a clerk at the Holiday Inn West, said: “The phone’s been ringing off the hook. Someone will cancel because they just got their power back, and someone else will call five minutes later to take their place.”

Medina, who bought dry ice to keep food in his refrigerator from spoiling, said he may have to buy more candles soon to provide light.

In Omaha, Jo and Aug Schutte have been burning candles in their kitchen and running a kerosene heater in the basement during the day to keep the temperature above 50 degrees in their brick, well-insulated home.

“About the only thing you can do is sit and work a crossword puzzle,” said Jo Schutte, who wears two sweaters or layers on a T-shirt and sweatshirt to stay warm. “You just kind of have nothing to do.”

The Schuttes spend much of the day - like many other homeowners and volunteers - trying to clear the downed tree limbs outside.

“We have debris stacked at our curb 6 feet tall,” Jo Schutte said.

Tags: weather

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