Storms kill 12, cause wide power outages
WASHINGTON — Violent storms swept across the eastern U.S., killing at least 12 people and knocking out power to millions of people on a day that temperatures across the region are expected to reach triple-digits.
The Mid-Atlantic region had already been experiencing 100-degree temperatures before Friday evening’s violent storms. More than 3 million are without power — and without air conditioning — as crews work to clear downed tree limbs and restore electricity.
The storms were blamed for the deaths of six people in Virginia; two in New Jersey; two in Maryland; one in Ohio; and one in Washington, D.C. In suburban Washington, residents were told to call non-emergency phone numbers or go to fire and police stations if they needed help because even 911 emergency call centers were without electricity.
Power outages were reported from Indiana to New Jersey, with the bulk of the service interruptions concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic region. Earlier Friday, the nation’s capital reached 104 degrees — topping a record of 101 set in 1934.
Saturday temperatures were expected to reach 100 degrees again — and another round of storms also was possible. The National Weather Service warned the heat index could reach 110 degrees.
The heat left people such as the elderly vulnerable. In Charleston, W.Va., firefighters helped several residents of an apartment building, some using wheelchairs or walkers, move to a shelter. Fire Capt. Chris Campbell said the evacuation was voluntary and was the only one since the storm hit. But he expected more.
In addition to the heat, officials say cell phone coverage is spotty. Many residents were asked to conserve water because sewage stations had been without power for a time. And authorities cautioned people to drive carefully because tree limbs littered roads and hundreds of traffic signals were out.
No power also meant no way to charge cellphones and laptops, and no Internet access in many areas.
Matthew Pelow, 39, was supervising a 10-man crew spreading 275-degree asphalt in Washington. They kept bottles of water on hand and were working quickly to finish before the heat got any worse. They also arrived in the cooler early morning hours.
“We got here just as quick as we could,” Pelow said.
Kim Molisee, meanwhile, sat frustrated in her car outside the normally bustling but now darkened All-Star Express convenience store in Reedsville, W.Va., just down the road from her home. Officials said about 500,000 people were without power in that state.
“I’m almost out of gas, and I can’t run around too much trying to find a store that’s open where I can get gas and ice,” she said.