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Deep Freeze Takes Its Toll

The year 1998 is going out with a blast.

In the Southeast, it was a blast of icy rain on Christmas Eve that downed power lines across several states. Tens of thousands of customers still remain without heat or electricity.

In the Pacific Northwest, it was a blast of rain, snow, fog and wind that has stranded travelers, caused widespread flooding and led to avalanche alerts in the higher elevations.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that heavy rain near Hebo, Oregon, has caused the earth to move. Rock slides swallowed up sections of the community. Major state highways were closed for 24 hours because of fears of avalanches and traffic was backed up across the state.

Dense fog cut visibility across the San Francisco Bay area to 100 feet or less, disrupting travel for thousands of people hoping to fly into airports in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The severe fog was expected to last through Wednesday.

At Tillamook, a town of 4,000 near the Oregon coast, the Coast Guard was called to the rescue after a landslide south of town buried U.S. Highway 101 while the Wilson River swamped the highway under 9 feet of water north of town.

Coast Guard skiffs ferried 20 stranded homeowners to safety, including a stroke victim who was taken by boat to a waiting ambulance.

Kathy Kammerer, 30, and her two children were forced into a Red Cross shelter after flooded roads stymied their attempt to drive up the coast.

"We drove into town and found that Tillamook had become an island," she said. "It looked like we would be floating away, but we were lucky."

In the Cascade mountains, thousands were finally allowed to cross mountain passes.

CBS Correspondent Manuel Gallegus reports that thousands of holiday traveleres were stranded Monday on both sides of the Snoqualmie Pass in Washington and snow was still falling.

"We are so sick of being in the car," said one. "That's why we're outside. We just want to go home."

To the southwest, on the eastern foothills of the Coast Range near Alsea, a landslide crushed a house on its way to burying Oregon Highway 34. A mother and her teen-age son managed to crawl out of the debris, flag down a motorist and catch a ride to a friend's house.

"They showed up here with stocking feet and just the clothes on their back," said the friend, Randy Campbell. "No shoes, no coats, no nothing. They were soaked."

Down the mountains near Seattle, a nursing home in the town of McKenna was evacuated as sandbags were thrown up along the surging Nisqually River.

For Oregon, it is some of the worst flooding since February 1996, when melting snow and heavy rain killed eight people and hundreds of cattle.

"I didn't have nearly enough (insurance) for this," said Doug Rosenberg as 50 volunteers helped him clean up damage to his hardware and building supply company in Tillamook. "The last one was supposed tbe the 100-year flood, and I wasn't going to be here another 100 years."

From Seattle to San Francisco, the bad weather that is walloping the region shows no signs of letting up with more wind and rain forecast for Tuesday.

Another inch of rain was in the forecast, and nearby rivers were expected to remain above flood levels for the next few days.

In central California, some of the nation's food supply was hit by an early freeze. Gary Covilia's entire orange crop, his year's bounty, was wiped out.

"It doesn't look good, doesn't look good," he said. "It's just a matter of time before this orange is dried out and won't be marketable."

Correspondent John Hagerty of CBS affiliate WTVR-TV reports that trees still are coming down all over Virginia as the weight of ice and snow takes its toll on the landscape.

Utility crews, expecting a Christmas holiday, have instead been working steadily since early Thursday. Some teams have come in from neighboring states to help.

"It's frustrating," said one worker. "But it's just as frustrating for the people who were out of lights Christmas Day."

In some cases, the damage will require rebuilding entire electrical systems.

"We've covered just about every situation possible out there, from power lines down, trees through homes, flooded basements, power, service being pulled away from the homes, just about everything you can imagine associated with an ice storm of this magnitude."

State health officials urged people to check on neighbors after at least two elderly Virginians who had lost electricity and heat died of hypothermia.

In Tennessee, 4,500 customers remained without electricity Monday night. About 2,000 homes and businesses were still in the dark in Mississippi. The power was expected to be back on today for 1,660 Alabama customers who were still without power Monday.

More than 50,000 Virginians again spent the night without electricity, down from more than 250,000 people on Christmas. Virginia Power says it will most likely be Wednesday before everyone has power back.

Pearlie Cole knows what it's like. After four days in the dark, she got her electricity back Monday. "I ran out and shouted, 'Congratulations,' and hollered, 'Hoo-hee, thanks!'" she said.