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Ice Storm May Equal Hurricane Cost

December 30, 1998

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Thousands of people remained in the dark nearly a week after an ice storm struck the South, and Virginia Power officials said damage will cost the utility at least $13 million _ as much as Hurricane Fran did two years ago.

``We knew the storm was coming and we were ahead of it, but we did not expect this,″ utility spokesman Dan Genest said Tuesday.

Nearly 30,000 Virginia Power customers remained in the dark Tuesday night, by far the most in any Southern state. Fewer than 1,000 people were without power in Tennessee, where snow was forecast by tonight.

Hurricane Fran roared across the South in 1996, killing 24 people. Thirteen of the victims were in Virginia, which also sustained $286 million in damage. Virginia Power put its costs at $13 million.

Richard R. Zuercher in Virginia Power’s central region office said most customers will have power restored by tonight, but said some won’t until Thursday or Friday.

``It’s not been a pleasant experience for anybody,″ Zuercher said.

In the West, rain and melting snow kept a dozen rivers at or near flood stage in Washington state. No injuries or major property damage were reported, though gusting winds tipped over a tractor-trailer near Snoqualmie Pass.

Scott Smith spent six hours sandbagging his home in Chehalis, Wash.

``You know Mother Nature _ she’s going to do what she’s going to do,″ he said Tuesday. ``My neck and shoulders were killing me. It was a lot of work.″

With only light rain expected to fall in Oregon today, communities turned to the task of cleaning up. The National Weather Service predicted that most rivers in the state would crest below flood stage and recede today.

In the coastal dairy town of Tillamook, retreating floodwaters left behind cow pastures covered in mud and roads clogged with fallen trees and debris.

Steve Baertlein, owner of Coast Tire Factory, spent much of Tuesday chasing down more than 300 tires that floated away when floodwaters swamped his garage for the 27th time in the past 43 years.

``Everything floated around, everything is wasted,″ he said. ``It’s not a good scene down here.″

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