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About 100,000 still without power in Arkansas

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 8:50 p.m.
A utility crew works on damaged power lines in Little Rock, Ark., Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in the wake of a Christmas day winter storm leaving thousands without electric power. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A cold rain fell across Arkansas on Friday, washing away some of the Christmas Day ice and snow that knocked out power to 194,000 customers — including businesses that rely on post-holiday sales — of the state's largest electric utility.

Entergy Arkansas said it had completed about 40 percent of its repairs by Friday, but that just under 100,000 were still without electricity. The pace of repairs has slowed, the utility said, because crews are going into areas with more significant damage.

Many in Little Rock, Hot Springs and Malvern won't have their lights and heat back until Tuesday — longer in areas with the most difficult repairs. The forecast for Little Rock for Friday night was a low of 26 degrees, with a chance of freezing rain.

Hugh McDonald, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, acknowledged customers' growing dissatisfaction at a Friday news conference, but said another 1,000 linemen and support workers were arriving from out of state, which means a total of 5,000 utility workers would be on the job by Saturday.

McDonald said he wished he would have had more workers on the ground earlier, and blamed forecasters for not indicating until just before the storm hit that central Arkansas would bear the brunt.

“Clearly we'd like to be farther along,” McDonald said.

The storm system, which worked its way east after Christmas, has been blamed for at least 16 deaths. The National Weather Service said Friday that the storm spawned more than a dozen tornadoes in southern Alabama.

Outside a Little Rock grocery store, Connie Ratcliff used a cane for balance as she unloaded groceries in the cold rain Friday. She said she hasn't had electricity — or hot food — since Tuesday.

“First hot coffee since Christmas, too,” Ratliff said, hoisting a foam cup in the air as she got into her car.

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