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Central U.S. cleans up as more storms loom

Story Highlights

• NEW: 170,000 in Oklahoma and Missouri still without power
• NEW: 6 more inches of snow expected in those states
• NEW: Road de-icing materials to be rationed in far West Texas
• Death toll is 70 across 9 states, with 23 in Oklahoma
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DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- Areas of the central United States that were still cleaning up and restoring power after recent snow and ice storms scrambled Thursday to stock up on sand and de-icing chemicals as another cold blast approached.

Much of Oklahoma and parts of Missouri were expected to get 6 inches of snow from Friday to Sunday, even as utilities in those states worked to restore electricity to more than 170,000 customers who lost it in the most recent storm.

In Texas, the wintry weather due Friday was expected to be less severe than the pelting of snow and freezing rain that paralyzed much of the state this week and left San Antonio, Austin and Houston with icy conditions rarely seen there.

Those cities were expected to avoid the worst of the incoming storm. But to the west in El Paso, officials prepared for bad weather by announcing county offices would be closed Friday. Freezing weather also was expected in northern parts of the state, including Dallas.

Sand and de-icing chemicals used on roads will be rationed in far West Texas this weekend, said Blanca Del Valle, a Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman in El Paso.

In other parts of the state, bridges and overpasses probably will be given priority. Icy roads that normally would get treatment might not if supplies are in question, department spokesman Randy Ormsby said. (Watch tips for driving on icy roads Video)

Hard-hit areas that used most of their de-icing chemicals earlier this week are "scrambling now to get more," he said.

"It's a problem we've never seen before. We typically don't go through this much ice and snow statewide."

At least 70 deaths related to winter weather have been reported in nine states in the past week, including 23 in Oklahoma and 12 each in Texas and Missouri. (Watch how the storms have left thousands in the dark Video)

Texas airports largely grounded by freezing rain earlier this week resumed mostly normal schedules Thursday. Formerly ice-slicked roads also reopened, including a 300-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from Fort Stockton to San Antonio that had been shut down since Tuesday.

'It looks like Godzilla came through there'

In Oklahoma, Gov. Brad Henry requested a major federal disaster declaration, which would make people in hard-hit counties eligible for housing grants and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Ice snapped hundreds of power poles and transmission lines in eastern Oklahoma; more than 63,000 people remained without power Thursday, six days after freezing rain began to fall. More than 1,000 people remained in shelters and many schools remained closed. (Watch the many ways ice is creating havoc Video)

Mike Mackey, 47, who has been staying in an American Red Cross shelter in Muskogee with his wife and son, said the crushing weight of ice broke trees throughout his neighborhood.

"It looks like Godzilla came through there and just stomped them all down," he said.

Erik Parrott, 28, a house framer, was going door-to-door with a chain saw, helping friends cut up fallen trees and branches. He has gas heaters to take the chill off his house but no hot water, so he has had to go elsewhere to shower.

"I've been going to my ex-wife's unfortunately," he said.

In Missouri, particularly in the state's southwest section, more than 108,000 homes and businesses were still without power Thursday, the State Emergency Management Office said.

The state has suffered a string of extended storm-caused blackouts, and Robert Clayton, a member of the state commission that regulates investor-owned utilities, said power companies need to do more to prevent such outages.

"We've been told we had the storm of the century in 2004, then there was one in 2005, then there were three in 2006," Clayton said. "If weather patterns have changed, and I don't know that they have, then we have to change the way we're thinking about utility reliability."

Along with the fatalities in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri, the wave of storms was blamed for eight deaths in Iowa, four each in New York and Michigan, three in Arkansas, two in North Carolina and one each in Maine and Indiana.

Cold snap wipes out much of citrus crop

In California, a four-night cold snap wiped out as much as three-quarters of the state's citrus and harmed virtually every other winter crop, from avocados to flowers. (Read how cold snap affects your grocery bill)

Texas citrus growers in the usually balmy Rio Grande Valley also suffered a cold snap, but it wasn't severe enough to damage crops, said John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association.

"The weather's nowhere near cold enough to do anything here," he said, noting that Texas growers might get a small windfall because of the California freeze.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


The power was out Thursday after a car hit a utility pole in Charlotte, North Carolina.




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