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Power outage leaves thousands of area residents in the cold

From Staff Reports
Dec. 20, 2012 at 11 p.m.

With temperatures expected to dip below freezing Thursday night, the American Red Cross offered shelter to area residents who were without power in the wake of a storm that moved through the region earlier in the day - leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power.

Bob Zboray and his wife Priscilla, both 82, noticed about 4 a.m. they had no power in their Longview home.

The couple spent the day near their fireplace, dressed in running suits and drinking coffee warmed on a gas stove.

By late afternoon, Zboray was frustrated.

"It's getting cold," he said. "And we haven't heard a word. We don't know what to expect."

He wasn't alone. The winds clocked at up to 55 miles per hour knocked out power to some 64,000 AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. customers at the height of the outage, according to company spokesman Scott McCloud.

SWEPCO brought in workers from other areas to assist with repairs in what may be one of the largest outages in East Texas since Hurricane Ike in 2008, McCloud said.

Even with the extra workers, McCloud said some customers would remain without power until Saturday.

"I don't hold the company responsible for the outages," said Zboray, a former electric company employee. "They're doing the best that they can."

What frustrated him most, he said, was a lack of information. With only a battery-operated radio and a cell phone, they had little access to information regarding the outages.

"I'm displeased with the information that is provided when you call," he said. "They should be able to give you some information, an update or something."

The electric company posted updates on its website, but with no electricity, the Zborays couldn't access the Internet.

Reacting to the scope of the outage, with forecasts of sub-breezing temperatures, the city of Longview worked with the American Red Cross.

Using the city's code red notification system, residents were given the phone number of the Red Cross, which agreed to provide shelter for those in need.

The city also released a statement encouraging residents to check on elderly or disabled neighbors.

"An estimated 150 homes are without power in northeast Longview," city spokesman Shawn Hara wrote. "There may be some sporadic power outages scattered throughout the community as well."

The city encouraged residents in homes without power to consider staying with someone else until power is restored.

National Weather Service predicts the winds will weaken during the next few days with overnight temperatures at or below freezing.

But an unsettled pattern of showers and thunderstorms are forecast to return Sunday.



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