Mid-Atlantic power outages could last days
Last Updated 6:30 p.m. ET
(CBS/AP) Utility crews untangled downed power lines and tree limbs Sunday, working to get the electricity turned back on for about 3 million people facing a second day of 100-degree temperatures without modern conveniences like air conditioning and refrigeration.
On Saturday, many people flocked to places like malls and movie theaters in the hope the lights would be on again when they returned home. Utilities were slowly making progress, but the millions who still had no electricity and could only watch their thermostats climb.
Two days after storms tore across the eastern U.S., power outages were forcing people to get creative to stay cool in dangerously hot weather. Temperatures were forecast to top 100 degrees in many storm stricken areas, and utility officials said the power will likely be out for several more days.
Strong winds from the late Friday storms that are being blamed in the deaths of 14 people in several states toppled massive trees onto cars and blocked roads, and officials asked residents not to drive until they could clear debris from the streets.
The bulk of the storm damage was in West Virginia, Washington and the capital's Virginia and Maryland suburbs. 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.
When a hurricane is lumbering their way, state officials have time to get extra personnel in place so they can immediately start on cleanup. That wasn't the case with this storm, known as a derecho a straight-line wind storm that sweeps over a large area at high speed.
"Unlike a polite hurricane that gives you three days of warning, this storm gave us all the impact of a hurricane without any of the warning of a hurricane," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said.
With the power out, authorities also warned people to be careful when using generators and candles to help light darkened homes.
In Washington's northern Virginia suburbs, emergency 911 call centers were out of service; residents were told to call local police and fire departments. Huge trees toppled across streets in the nation's capital, crumpling cars. Cellphone and Internet service was spotty, gas stations shut down and residents were urged to conserve water.
The power outages were especially dangerous because they left the region without air conditioning in an oppressive heat wave. Temperatures soared to highs in the mid-90s Saturday in Baltimore and Washington, a day after readings of up to 104 degrees were reported in the region.
Yet another day of temperatures reaching 100 degrees was forecast for much of the region Sunday.
Three Baltimore City fire companies set to permanently close this week were staying open several more days to help cope.
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.
Brooke Richart, a 26-year-old teacher from New York City, was among the passengers stranded for 20 hours. She read half a book and took walks outside the train, which had light, air conditioning and food the entire time. But she called the wait "trying."
"Thankfully we could go in and out of the train because we were there so long. If you wanted to stretch your legs or take a walk, you could," she said.
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