WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.
On 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.
Molisee and her 13- and 15-year-old sons were at the Walmart in Kingwood when the storm hit and the power failed.
“Me and the boys made a run for it to the car,” she said. They made it home safely and suffered no serious damage, “but even after the storm, you could hear the trees falling.”
Molisee will be able to cook on her gas-powered stove and even shower because she has a gas water heater. But staying cool is another matter.
“I think I’m gonna get my boys and go to the river,” she said.
More than 20 elderly residents at an apartment home in Indianapolis were displaced when the facility lost power due to a downed tree. Most were bused to a Red Cross facility to spend the night, and others who depend on oxygen assistance were given other accommodations, the fire department said.
Those who could afford it flocked to hotels to escape their hot, powerless homes. Others planned to spend the day at places like shopping malls in an effort to stay cool.
Jose Amaya, 41, of Germantown, Md., was also without power on Saturday. He said his wife and two daughters planned to the mall to stay cool and he joked that the outage was going to cost him because they would be shopping. His wife, who works for a hotel chain, also planned to get the family a room to stay.
Robert Clements, 28, said he showered by flashlight on Friday night after power went out at his home in Fairfax, Va. The apartment complex where he lives told his fiancé that power wouldn’t be back on for at least two days, and she booked a hotel on Saturday.
Clements’ fiance, 27-year-old Ann Marie Tropiano, said she tried to go to the pool, but it was closed because there was no electricity so the pumps weren’t working. She figured the electricity would eventually come back on, but she awoke to find her thermostat reading 81 degrees and slowly climbing. Closing the blinds and curtains didn’t help.
“It feels like an oven,” she said. “It is hot.”
Associated Press writers Vicki Smith in Morgantown, W.Va., Larry O’Dell in Richmond, Va., Pam Ramsey in Charleston, W.Va., Norman Gomlak in Atlanta, Jeffrey McMurray in Chicago and Rebecca Miller in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.