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Deep Freeze: Reporting From The Ice Storm

Hari Sreenivasan is a CBS News correspondent based in Dallas.
Seventy-year-old Bill Wilson and his wife watched the Super Bowl on a battery powered five-inch TV, with a rabbit ear wrapped in aluminum foil. While sitting in their living room, they had their jackets on, thick socks, full boots and were huddled around the natural gas fireplace because it was their sixth day without power outside Crayne, Ky. Never heard of Crayne, well let's say that it is suburb of Marion, which, if you tried to find it on a map would be at the center of a triangle between St. Louis, Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn. Let's just say it's pretty far out there.

Here we are a week after an ice storm and there are still more than 255,000 people in the state of Kentucky without power. Add up the other states and we're talkin' about almost a half million homes and businesses still in the dark.

Imagine a landscape where for miles and miles, trees just don't seem to reach past a certain height without a visible cracked, peeled, torn limb of some sort. Those falling limbs pierce roof tops, crush cars, block roadways and most of all bring down power lines. There are at least 5,000 utility workers who have been working around the clock, but just getting to some of the downed utility power poles requires chainsaws and heavy equipment.

The Wilsons have been cooking with a barbeque grill in their wood shed (with the door open), but unfortunately 10 of the 24 deaths so far in the state have been from carbon monoxide poisoning. There are hundreds of homes which the National Guard has just begun reaching in the last couple of days, and hopefully there are not more deaths attributed to hypothermia or neglect.

Natural disasters of almost any sort are not pleasant to cover, but ice storms and hurricanes almost tie each other in the misery factor. Hurricanes happen in the middle of summer, usually in warm, humid areas and when they knock out power – and consequently the air conditioning – you are left an unprotected and tantalizing feast for mosquitoes. There aren't any insect problems in ice storms but you are in sub freezing temperatures, and regardless of how much you layer up, if you stay there long enough, you get cold.