RALEIGH, N.C. — Despite round-the-clock repair efforts, nearly 1.8 million customers remained without electricity Friday in the Carolinas as ice-laden branches continued to fell power lines.
The icy aftermath of the storm Wednesday and Thursday -- which many in the Carolinas compared to a major hurricane for its scale of destruction -- proved worse than the storm itself. And across the East Coast, snow and ice snarled air travel and kept children home from school.
Repair workers who have poured in from across the South were working against the clock and the ice, which continued to send tree limbs crashing onto power lines, some of which had already been repaired.
Frustrated utilities pushed back earlier promises and acknowledged that most customers won't have power back until Wednesday night, a week after the storm hit.
"The tree limbs are still falling and getting tangled up in our power lines," said Mike McCracken, a spokesman for Carolina Power & Light. "We've made ground in some areas, but in other locations, we've lost ground."
Ten thousand utility workers were working in the Carolinas, which took the brunt of the storm that coated everything with a heavy icy glaze. Forests and yards popped with the sound of crashing branches, roofs and cars were crushed and streets were littered with debris and downed lines.
"We come up here, work a little overtime, help the folks get the lights back on before Christmas," said Bobby Brinkman of Sarasota, Fla.-based Pike Electric.
Raleigh-area CP&L's outages increased to 411,000 from 350,000 a day earlier. Charlotte-based Duke Power also lost ground, as 993,000 North Carolina customers were without electricity Friday, compared with 930,000 earlier.
Nearly 290,000 were powerless in South Carolina, up from 276,000. The North Carolina Assn. of Electric Cooperatives reported 105,000 outages.
Friday's temperatures climbed into the 40s, melting some of the ice.
At least 26 deaths had been blamed on the storm since it blew across the Southern Plains, sending snow and ice from New Mexico to New York.
A Virginia woman froze to death after her car slid off the road, and a North Carolina man's car was hit by a falling tree as he returned from delivering blood supplies.
About 3,000 travelers were stranded at North Carolina's Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Travelers faced cancellations and long flight delays at the New York City area's LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark, N.J., airports.
On the ground, highway traffic slowed to a crawl or stalled behind wrecks.
Buses ran behind schedule, and commuter railroads in the New York City region added trains to cope with an increase in riders.
The steady snowfall in New York turned avenues and sidewalks treacherously slick, but tourists busily snapped photos.
"This just seems like the way New York should be, you know?" said Jennifer McDaniel of Detroit. "The snow and the lights and decorations -- it just seems right."