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Cold Leaves Lights Off In South

A cold snap coupled with snow and freezing rain left much of the country paralyzed Friday, as holiday travelers stayed off icy roads and thousands in the South were left without electricity. CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales and Reporter Lou Young of WCBS-TV in New York report.

At least 30 deaths have been blamed on the freezing conditions, which have cause numerous car crashes. The weather may have played a role when a bus crashed on a New Jersey highway Thursday, killing eight. Click here to see a report from WCBS-TV's Lou Young reporting from the scene of the accident in Sayreville, New Jersey.

Thousands of Southerners greeted Christmas without electricity after sleet and freezing rain toppled power lines.

Power was restored to 60,000 Tennessee homes and businesses Friday evening, though some new reports of blackout were reported. In Virginia, at least 244,000 customers were without electricity at one point, 156,000 in Mississippi, 93,000 in Louisiana, 106,000 in North Carolina.

Much of the service was expected to be restored by nightfall, but it could take days to reconnect power to everyone. While freezing rain was not in the forecast, the South and most of the nation is expected to continue under a cold snap already blamed for at least 30 deaths.

Shelters opened across the South. About 200 people slept the night before Christmas in one Raleigh shelter.

People tried to make the most of the sudden entrance of winter despite the hardship.

In Indianola, Miss., John Weathersby lost power at home, went to his Chevrolet dealership, "started a big ol' fire on this wood stove" and played host to about 20 other people.

"We have got a big ol' pot of chicken soup, some hot coffee, and we are just sitting in these rockin' chairs, watching the traffic go by," he said.

"Ice for a utility is a nightmare," said Virginia Power spokesman Jim Norvell. "This is a major ice storm."

"As quickly as our crews restore power to an area, falling trees bring down the line again," Electric Power Board president Harold DePriest said. "It's very frustrating to them and our customers."

In Southern California, temperatures were on the rise, hitting 70 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. But it's too little much too late.

California Citrus growers are facing a deepening crisis as extreme temperatures damaged a third of this year's crops, costing farmers half a billion dollars.


Three days of extreme temperatures destroy citrus crops in California CBS)

This is bad news for workers.

"Most of the people who pack out here will be laid off," said citrus distributor Jim Marderosian.

Except for the deep South, most of the nation awoke Thursday morning to below-freezing temperatures. Snow fell across New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware, with freezing rain and sleet from Texas to Virginia, and some of the worst ice hit Mississippi and Alabama. Buffalo had a real white Christmas and Florida had sun.

Delays and cancellations were reported at many airports, including Baltimore, Dallas, Charlotte, N.C., Richmond, Va., Greenville, S.C., and Memphis, Tenn.

In Long Beach, a massive water main break brought a muddy brown Christmas. About a million gallons of water spilled after the huge aging pipe was weakened by the cold.

In New York, leftovers from a light snow early Thursday were being touted as the city's first white Christmas since 1976.

"I think it's exciting," said Kathy Resnick, who was window shopping on Fifth Avenue. "It puts people in the Christmas spirit when you have crisp, cold, snowy weather."