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Backup Power: A Growing Need, if You Can Afford It

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When frigid weather caused rolling blackouts on Christmas Eve across North Carolina, Eliana and David Mundula quickly grew worried about their 2½-week-old daughter, whom they had brought home days earlier from a neonatal intensive care unit.

“The temperature was dropping in the house,” said Ms. Mundula, who lives in Matthews, south of Charlotte. “I became angry.”

But her husband pulled out a small gasoline generator a neighbor had convinced them to buy a couple of years earlier, allowing them to use a portable heater and restart their refrigerator, keeping them going for much of the five-hour outage.

North of Charlotte, in the town of Cornelius, Gladys Henderson, an 80-year-old former cafeteria worker, was less fortunate. She did not have a generator and resorted to candles, a flashlight and an old kerosene heater to get through a different recent outage.

“I lose power just about all the time,” Ms. Henderson said. “Sometimes it goes off and just stays off.”

Ms. Henderson is on the losing end of a new energy divide that is leaving millions of people dangerously exposed…

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