WILLISTON, S.C. — Ben Ziegler frowned grimly as he cut firewood for his home on the third day without power to keep his family of five warm, including his 14-month-old daughter.

“I got tired of this about five minutes after the lights went out,” the 33-year-old Army veteran said at a firewood stand near his Evans, Ga., neighborhood.

Despite their weariness, Ziegler and thousands of others in east Georgia and western and southern South Carolina may be without power for several more days. The nasty winter storm that blew through the South and eventually barreled up the East Coast dumped a tree-splitting, utility-pole-snapping inch of ice on the area and many, including South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, compared the damage to the aftermath of a hurricane.

“I didn’t know this was going to be in the same realm as Hugo,” Haley said Friday of the hurricane that struck in 1989. “To look at these neighborhoods and see the trees down and on houses – to see all of the devastation that’s happened to this community – is terrible.”

The same system dumped more than a foot or two of snow on parts of several states. The storm was blamed for more than two dozen deaths and closed schools, snarled air traffic, caused countless crashes and delayed thousands of flower deliveries on Valentine’s Day.

The longest-lasting effect, however, was power.


About 1.2 million utility customers from the South to the Northeast lost power at some point during the storm. That dramatically dropped to about 465,000 outages by Friday morning, mostly in South Carolina and Georgia.

With roads finally thawed out, many in the hardest hit areas were able to finally leave their homes. But there weren’t too many places to go. Few stores were open because they didn’t have power, either.

Dollar General stores across the region let people shop by flashlight, but were only taking cash because they had no way of scanning credit cards. Intersections became risky games of chicken because traffic lights were out and deputies were elsewhere trying to help clear trees and limbs off roads and checking on older people and the sick.

Losing power in a rural area often means losing water, too. Many residents are on wells with pumps that need electricity to operate. Some people had buckets out to catch the melting ice so they could use the water to flush their toilets.

Ziegler says he lives in the South in part so he doesn’t have to deal with winter weather that has been particularly harsh this season all over the country. Two storms in two weeks have been too much. The frown returned when he was told the Farmer’s Almanac predicted one final Southern winter storm for the end of the month.

“One storm was too much,” Ziegler said. “I’m ready to wear my shorts again.”


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