Winter storm in US Midwest blamed for at least 32 deaths

The winter storm in Central America which covered the country’s midsection in ice is blamed for at least 32 deaths. Now utility crews try to restore power lines snapped by the storm.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma - which was hit the hardest - still had a half million homes and businesses without power, and utility officials warned it could take a week to 10 days to get electricity fully restored, the AP reports.

President George W. Bush issued an emergency disaster declaration Wednesday, which authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide financial assistance to help the state clean up.

Dozens of shelters in churches and community centers offered food and a warm place to sleep, especially for the poor, the elderly and families with young children who had nowhere else to go.

Many of those without power chose to stay home and deal with the frigid conditions.

"I have a gas stove. It won't get the house warm, but it warms up the kitchen a little bit," said Kennette Hughes, who has been without power since Monday. "As long as I'm in bed, I'm pretty warm. I've got a down comforter, and I'm wearing a sweat shirt, sweat pants, turtleneck and socks and leggings."

Forecasters predicted sunshine and temperatures in the 40s (between 4 and 10 Celsius) for Thursday. But on Wednesday, authorities were still cleaning up broken branches, toppled power lines and slick roads. Another 155,000 utility customers were still blacked out in Kansas , Missouri and Nebraska.

The 32 deaths included 21 in Oklahoma, four in Kansas, three each in Missouri and Michigan and one in Nebraska .

Most of the fatalities were the result of traffic accidents on icy roads, but carbon monoxide was blamed for the death of an Oklahoma City woman and a northeast Oklahoma man who were trying to heat their homes with generators, authorities said.

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