More heat, storms loom for battered East

2:35 PM, Jul 1, 2012   |    comments
Worker uses a chainsaw to clear a tree that fell onto the 14th fairway at Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
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WASHINGTON - The laborious task of untangling downed wires and clearing away tree limbs continued Sunday as millions of people faced soaring temperatures without power lost in Friday's storms.

Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia were hardest hit. But the National Weather Service warned Sunday of more severe storms in the northern Rockies, Mid-Mississippi River Valley to Ohio Valley and parts of the Mid-Atlantic, including the Carolinas, as areas of extreme heat clashed with milder temperatures to the north.

Forecasters also issued excessive and dangerous heat warnings in Alabama, North and South Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio. Meteorologists in Jacksonville, Fla., said the combination of 100-degree temperatures and high humidity would make it feel like 118 degrees.

In St. Louis, the National Weather Service warned of "dangerous heat" through Monday with temperatures expected to reach 106 degrees on Monday afternoon. "Current indications are that this heat wave may continue for much of the upcoming workweek," the National Weather Service in St. Louis said.

The storms could bring hail and strong wind and even tornadoes in the Midwest.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley declared a state of emergency after the storms left more than a million residents without power amid 100-degree temperatures. Two people died and one boater remained missing and is presumed drowned after storms ripped through the region.

On Sunday, 640,000 people remained without power, Maryland Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ed McDonough said. To help residents cope with the extreme heat, the state opened 74 cooling stations.

The number of people without power is similar to power outages following hurricanes, but unlike hurricanes the power companies had no time to prepare, McDonough said.

"That's still an awful lot of people without power in the extreme heat we're having now," he said. "It's still an event that's going to take days instead of hours."

The agency is focused now on making sure nursing homes and assisted living facilities have sufficient power to keep their elderly residents cool, he said.

"The good news is while the temperatures are still high, the humidity is dropping," McDonough said. "But the humidity may creep up again later this week."

In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell also declared a state of emergency. Dominion Virginia Power said more than 400,000 customers were without power. Appalachian Power reported 244,000 without power and Virginia Electric Co-op reported 86,000 without power.

Strong winds from the storms late Friday toppled massive trees onto cars and blocked roads, and officials asked residents not to drive until they could clear debris from the streets.

At least six of the dead were killed in Virginia, including a 90-year-old woman asleep in her bed when a tree slammed into her home. Two young cousins in New Jersey were killed when a tree fell on their tent while camping. Two were killed in Maryland, one in Ohio, one in Kentucky and one in Washington.

•New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered the National Guard to deliver fuel for generators and fresh water to stricken areas. He reported that power had been restored to such tourist areas as Atlantic City's casinos.

•In West Virginia, 232 Amtrak passengers were stranded Friday night on a train blocked on both sides of the tracks by toppled trees. Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said passengers were taken away by buses Saturday night.

Contributing: Associated Press

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