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No Power, No Water, No Ice: Fran Leaves Frustration in North Carolina

September 10, 1996

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Sharon Roe sat in 90-degree heat outside the Mission Valley Cinemas waiting for a matinee and a couple of hours of air-conditioned comfort denied her by Hurricane Fran.

``I’m in a terrible mood. My attention span is about 30 seconds and people are cranky now,″ she said.

Five days after Fran struck, Roe and 350,000 other customers were still without power in North Carolina, and it may be a week before everybody is back on line. Tens of thousands still could not use their phones. Thousands were without water, since many homes have wells with electric pumps. And huge numbers of downed trees still lay across roads and yards.

Without power, people have taken to cooking outdoors. The thrill wears off after nearly a week.

``I want to be able to make coffee in the morning without going outside to start a fire,″ Roe said, who lay awake the night before in a muggy bedroom as road crew used chain saws to cut up trees outside her home at 2 a.m..

``I didn’t get any sleep last night,″ she said. ``I’m just desperate.″

Juliette Cunin and dozens of others waited patiently in a shopping center parking lot with coolers and cardboard boxes to collect free ice, dry ice and water.

``Thank God! I can’t take this anymore,″ Cunin said. The ice would allow her to keep a little food in the house.

Even Gov. Jim Hunt was among the affected. His farm was without electricity for a couple of days.

To make life easier on some, Hunt told non-essential state employees to work in their own neighborhoods instead of coming into the office.

Torrential rains from Fran caused flooding, which was made worse when sewage from swamped or powerless treatment plants spilled out.

In Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg and about 55 miles southeast of Raleigh, a power failure caused 6.8 million gallons of sewage to back up into the Cape Fear River. Oil and fuel from damaged boats leaked into waterways.

``The river is a big mess,″ said Bouton Baldridge, president of the Cape Fear River Watch. ``Besides sewage there’s an awful lot of debris from the storm floating down the river.

On street after street, huge trees lay atop houses. The whine of chain saws cut through neighborhoods, and mountains of debris arose on curbsides.

Classes never got under way in many schools, extending summer vacation for some youngsters. Streets remained blocked by trees or high water, or were closed because of sinkholes created by torrents of water flowing underneath.

``Everybody’s sort of disgusted with it,″ said Chuck Holzinger at the National Weather Service office in Wilmington.

For Alice Smith and her four children, ages 6 to 10, helping hand out bags of ice and bottles of water for the Red Cross was a good distraction.

``They’re out of school today and I didn’t feel good about staying home when so many people need help,″ Smith said. ``And you can kind of take your thoughts off yourself, even if your own situation isn’t working out.″

Daughter Jenna, 9, found it exciting: ``I think volunteering is great. You get to have a lot of adventures.″

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