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Out of power and 'unsafe,' Galveston starts long cleanup

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  • NEW: Storm leaves millions without power, with outages as far north as Ohio
  • Aftermath of Hurricane Ike "worse than storm itself," Galveston mayor says
  • Officials say they fear more bodies may be in Texas debris
  • Ike and remnants leave at least 27 people dead in U.S.
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GALVESTON, Texas (CNN) -- As Galveston's leaders on Monday repeatedly urged its residents to stay away, people who never left tried to make the best of their muggy, tree-strewn, powerless city.

iReporter Carlos Ortega says there's "not an inch that isn't damaged" in his Galveston, Texas, neighborhood.

Amy Reid and her neighbors found a good use for all the frozen dinners that had piled up over weeks in their freezers, pooling them as some kind of high-sodium feast they might have to subsist on for a long time.

As of Monday night, there was only one convenience store open in Galveston and one was lucky to find beef jerky and fruit roll-ups on the shelves.

Reid and her new friends cooked on a BBQ and slept on her porch, choosing to suffer the bugs rather than spend a restless night in a sauna-hot house. Her home, hoisted on stilts, was not flooded.

"We've got a whole group of people along the block," she said. "One guy down here has a generator so he charges our phones up and our laptops up." DVDs on a laptop pass the long wait before Galveston is up and running again.

City manager Steve LeBlanc said people like Reid who remain in Galveston should leave. There's not enough clean drinking water to serve the needs of the 15,000 to 20,000 people who stayed on the island, he said Monday, and there would be a "downward spiral if everybody started coming back."

The city's resources are "stretched to the max," and it could be a month before electricity is restored. The cleanup will be massive, he said, and the city is "unsafe."

North of Galveston, Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged residents who evacuated Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, not to hurry back to their homes. Video Watch the governor discuss Texas' troubles »

But Sarah Allen returned to her Houston home Monday, finding it in relatively good shape. Her carpeting was wet from leaks near a sliding glass door, but her apartment had not flooded. She, her boyfriend and six other people rode out Hurricane Ike at a friend's house. "Lots of trees are down in people's apartments," she said. "The covered parking lot has a metal roof and some of it has fallen on cars. Some was rolled up."

About 150,000 of the 220,000 residents who evacuated ahead of the storm were still out of their homes Monday, said Judge Ed Emmett, chief executive of Harris County, which includes Houston. City officials did not lift a boil-water order as expected Monday afternoon, saying water in one location was being retested.

Power has been restored to at least 500,000 customers in the Houston area, according to the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, but another 1.5 million people in the state still have no electricity. Photo See the aftermath of Ike »

Marilyn Davidson's Clear Lake neighborhood in Houston was strewn with downed trees. She and her husband relied on a battery-powered radio for information and loaded their refrigerator with ice before the storm.

"Everything in there stayed pretty cool," she said. "We had milk out of it this morning." The wait outside her regular grocery store was a half-hour so the couple went to a CVS pharmacy and stocked up on items they said they would probably never eat like canned mixed nuts and chicken broth. iReport.com: Shattered Houston buildings

Davidson did have the one most desired and scarce of goods -- gasoline.

At least 14 Texas refineries closed in the hours before the hurricane hit, taking away more than 20 percent of the nation's oil capacity, The Associated Press reported. Across the nation, gas prices soared for the third straight day, jumping a full dollar at some gas stations.

Arguments broke out at gas stations and tensions were high everywhere. Thousands of people remained in shelters, wondering what homes they had to return to. Others waited in line to get water, ice and food at 60 distribution sites the Federal Emergency Management Agency had established across Texas.

Perhaps the most dire area of the state was Bolivar Peninsula, a resort on Galveston Bay where entire neighborhoods were destroyed. A rescue team on Monday saved 60 people who were stranded there among homes leveled to their foundations. On Sunday, a Galveston County sheriff's official said three bodies were pulled from storm wreckage in Port Bolivar.

Galveston residents had been warned as Ike approached the Texas coast to leave or face "certain death" from its 12- to 15-foot storm surge. iReport.com: Facing the deadly storm

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"Sometimes the aftermath of the storm is worse than the storm itself," Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas said. "There's nothing to come here for right now. ... Please leave."

Ike and its remnants left at least 27 people dead from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. The remnants moved into Canada early Monday.

Hurricane-force winds from the storm were felt as far north as Kentucky, and heavy rains flooded streets in Chicago, Illinois. See Chicago's swamped streets

Deaths related to the storm were reported in Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio as well as Texas. The toll could go higher. Chambers County, Texas, Judge Jimmy Sylvia said late Sunday that there is nothing left of Oak Island, a city on the coast in Galveston Bay. Smith Point, to the south, has "mounds and mounds of debris," the judge said, and he fears they may find bodies in the rubble. Video Watch how Ike wiped out neighborhoods »

Louisiana Chief Medical Officer Louis Cataldie confirmed four deaths as a result of the hurricane -- two in Terrebonne Parish and two in Jefferson Davis Parish. Video Watch how Ike flooded one Louisiana parish »

Two people drowned in Indiana and another in Missouri.

Two others died in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, but the cause of their deaths was unclear, said Missouri State Emergency Operations Center spokeswoman Susie Stonner.

Wind gusts as high as 74 mph ripped the roof off a Delta Airlines hangar at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, according to an Associated Press report. The airport's control tower had to be evacuated during the worst of the storm, the AP said.

In Kentucky, more than 340,000 Louisville Gas and Electric Co. customers were without power Monday morning, CNN affiliate WLKY-TV reported.

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Across the region, more than 1.3 million people were without power, the AP reported.

"Over 90 percent of our customers are without service," Kathy Meinke of Duke Energy, which serves southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky, told the AP. iReport.com: Ike soaks, smashes Texas home

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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