Ice storm batters SE

BY PJ HELLER | Manchester, TN | December 29, 1998

Eric Hodge and his wife only wanted a bowl of hot popcorn.

Then the realization set in that the popcorn was the kind that needed to be popped in a microwave - and they still had no electricity.

Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the South faced a similar power outage for days in the wake of Christmas Eve ice storms that downed trees and power lines.

By Monday, though, power had been restored to most of the areas in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina affected by the storm. Power was not expected to be restored to parts of Virginia, however, until at least Wednesday. Hardest hit areas were around Richmond, Williamsburg, Petersburg and Glouster, according to a spokesman for Virginia Power.

More than 360,000 homes and businesses in central and eastern Virginia were affected by the storm. Tree trimmers and utility crews from Virginia Power and from out of state were working 16-hour shifts trying to restore power.

"Several hundred people around Gloucester, Va. are still without power," reported Fred Reed, a disaster resource consultant (DRC) with Church World Service, on Monday.

On one road near the town, 70 utility poles were downed in a three-mile stretch.

"Everything was sort of at a standstill for several days," said Reed, who lives in the area. "But everybody's adjusting pretty well."

Residents throughout the stricken region managed to stay warm and cook Christmas dinner using fireplaces, kerosene heaters, camp stoves or by going to the homes of family and friends who still had power. Emergency generators were pressed into service.

"You can be pretty ingenious if you're hungry enough and cold enough," Hodge said.

Churches cancelled Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services as well as services on Sunday.

"I don't think there were any Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services here at all," said Virginia Reed, who serves with her husband as a DRC for Church World Service.

Hodge, pastor of the Boynton Valley Baptist Church near Manchester, Tenn., said his church cancelled Christmas Eve services "because 99 percent of our members did not have power."

"We had an 11 o'clock Sunday service briefly in the cold building without electricity or lights," Hodge said. "We just sang some hymns together and shared together and went home."

By Monday morning, only a few hundred homes outside Manchester were still waiting for power to come back on, he said.

"It's been mostly an inconvenience for us," he said. "It's been strange to say the least."

"If they named winter storms the way they name hurricanes, they could name this one the Grinch," Kurt Pickering of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency told CNN.

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