WILLISTON, S.C. — Ben Ziegler frowned grimly as he used borrowed equipment to 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 U.S. 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, who toured damaged areas Friday, said 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 and was blamed for more than two dozen deaths, closed schools, snarled air traffic, caused countless crashed 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 Northeast lost power at some point during from the South through the Northeast. That dramatically dropped to about 465,000 outages by Friday morning, mostly in South Carolina and Georgia. The numbers did keep dropping, but life without electricity after a third day was becoming a hassle.
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.