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Alabama power outage statewide

Key bridge in Mobile reopened after being hit by oil rig

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MOBILE, Alabama (CNN) -- More than 656,000 homes and businesses across Alabama were without electricity Tuesday, and water and debris still closed off many roads.

In a demonstration of Katrina's wide reach, more than 182,000 customers in the Birmingham area and another 132,000 in and around Tuscaloosa -- both cities more than 150 miles inland -- were without power.

Alabama Power spokesman Bernie Fogarty warned customers they would be in for a "prolonged outage."

While the numbers affected are smaller than during last year's blow from Hurricane Ivan, the damage appears to be worse, he said.

It took Alabama Power eight days after Ivan to bring all of its customers back online, he said.

Even so, Hurricane Katrina spared the state the full brunt of the power it unleashed on neighboring Mississippi and Louisiana.

The storm was blamed for two deaths in the state. More than 55 people were killed in Mississippi and an untold number died in Louisiana.

"We've been very fortunate that the loss of life in Alabama has been very, very minimal," said Jim Walker, the state's homeland security director.

Nevertheless, Walker characterized damage in the state as "extensive."

A look at some cities

Authorities in Mobile reopened the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge to traffic Tuesday after inspectors determined it had suffered only minor to moderate damage after being struck by an oil rig set loose by Hurricane Katrina. (Full story)

As a precaution, however, the four lanes of the bridge were being reduced to one lane in each direction, said Alabama Department of Transportation spokesman Tony Harris.

The bridge, part of U.S. 98, is the detour route for vehicles hauling hazardous materials not allowed in downtown tunnels on Interstate 10.

The closure of the bridge on Monday forced trucks hauling hazardous material to make a 70-mile detour, said Harris.

The Bankhead tunnel, which takes U.S. 98 under the Mobile River, also was closed by water covering its entrances.

The Interstate 10 tunnels in downtown Mobile were spared, but only one lane in each direction was available because of pumping operations to keep the tunnels dry, according to the Alabama DOT. Pavement in the tunnels was wet, but there was no standing water.

I-10 was passable through Alabama, but only to the Mississippi state line, Harris said.

Aerial footage of Dauphin Island off the coast showed flooding, but most of the structures appeared to be mostly intact.

In the coastal town of Bayou La Batre a number of boats swept up by the storm were pushed well inland and deposited into wooded areas.

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