They are gathering around bonfires for hot chocolate and marshmallows in their backyards to keep bodies and spirits warm.
More than one million people were still without power in the Carolinas Friday, many left with no heat for their homes and no way to cook their food.
"Folks are being inventive and neighborly," said Carolyn Tyler, executive director of North Carolina Interfaith Disaster Response. "They are gathering around bonfires for hot chocolate and marshmallows in their backyards to keep bodies and spirits warm, especially when they cannot find any empty motel rooms."
Malls and restaurants were packed with people in search of heat and cooked food, she said.
"Lines at local McDonald's and a few other open fast food chains completely circle the building and flow out into the streets."
Meanwhile hospital emergency rooms were reporting an influx of people with carbon monoxide poisoning. Duke Hospital had 50 cases Thursday night.
"Please help pass the word not to use outdoor heating equipment, open oven doors, or use improper fuels in kerosene heaters, and to have proper ventilation for temporary heaters," urged Tyler.
Local churches and schools were opened as shelters across the affected area. Most school systems were closed.
Power crews from across the country were arriving to help get juice back for the Carolinas. A vast ice storm hit the region Wednesday. It started as snow but then turned to sleet and freezing rain. Because trees still had their leaves on them, the ice brought unbearable weight to the limbs, snapping them off so they brought down power lines.
''This ice storm surpasses the damage from Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which had 696,000 outages,'' said E.O. Ferrell, senior vice president of electric distribution for Duke Power.
In North Carolina, Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency.
In the Charlotte area, some 3,000 travelers were stranded at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
Some people could be without power until Sunday, reported government officials.
"In the meantime, check on your neighbors," said Tyler.
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