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Storm woes in South

LIFE already was hard in Mississippi, the poorest of the Deep South states. For the hundreds of thousands who lost electricity in an ice storm two weeks ago, it's been like a trip back in time.

``We can't keep food,'' said Brenda Irby, as her family munched cold hot dogs in darkness Tuesday. ``We wash clothes by hand, and that's a job and a half.''

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The weight of the ice caused an estimated $1 billion damage, toppling transmission towers, snapping power-line poles, dragging down electric lines and leaving up to 200,000 homes in the dark. President Clinton declared 26 counties disaster areas.

Recovery from the Feb. 10-11 storm has been slow, particularly among the rural poor.

About 40,000 people remain without electricity.

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