Intense Heat, High Winds Cut Power to 2 Million in US
Storms Leave 2 Million Without Power
The Associated Press, June 30, 2012
WASHINGTON — Utility crews were working on Saturday morning to restore electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses that lost power during a wave of violent thunderstorms.
Utilities reported that more than 2 million customers were without power from Indiana to New Jersey, with the bulk of the service interruptions concentrated in Washington and the surrounding areas. Earlier Friday, the nation’s capital reached 104 degrees — topping a record of 101 set in 1934.
At least two deaths were reported. A police spokeswoman in Fairfax County, Va., Mary Ann Jennings, said a woman in the Springfield, Va., area died when a tree fell onto her home while she was sleeping. The police also reported that 27-year-old man, identified as Khiet Nguyen, 27, of Burke, Va., was killed in a traffic accident.
The utility that serves Washington, Pepco, reported overnight that 441,000 customers were without power in the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. A spokeswoman for the utility, Myra Oppel, said that it would take several days to restore power to all customers.
Ms. Oppel said Pepco would seek to bring in crews from other states, but that neighboring utilities facing massive outages would also be calling on them.
The power loss comes as the region is bracing for another day of sweltering heat.
“This is very unfortunate timing,” she said, referring to the heat wave. “We do understand the hardship that this brings, especially with the heat as intense as it is. We will be working around the clock until we get the last customer on.”
In addition to Pepco, Dominion Power was reporting 837,000 customers without power, including 460,000 in Northern Virginia. BGE said about 431,000 customers were without power, mostly in Baltimore and nearby counties. Delmarva Power was reporting about 68,000 customers without power in Delaware.
Officials in Montgomery County, Md., said winds in excess of 75 miles per hour had been reported.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia declared a state of emergency after more than 500,000 customers in 27 counties lost electricity.
Several elderly residents from an Indianapolis apartment home were displaced when a tree fell onto a power line, knocking out electricity to the facility, the fire department said. More than 20 residents were taken by bus to a Red Cross facility to spend the night, and others who depend on oxygen assistance were given other accommodations.
In Ohio, the State Highway Patrol said three tractor-trailers blew over on Interstate 75 near Findlay, but no one was injured.
Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said the system that came through the Washington area is known as a derecho, which the weather service describes as “a widespread, long-lived wind system that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms.” Although a derecho can produce tornado-like damage, the damage is typically along a mostly straight path.
Mr. Jackson said the storms originated in the Midwest, passed over the Appalachian Mountains and then restrengthened, drawing energy and direction from a ridge of high pressure centered over the Southeast.
“It’s one of those storms, it just plows through,” he said. “It’s able to maintain itself and it’s associated with very strong wind gusts. So we have widespread 60- , 70-, 80-, even isolated 90-mile-an-hour, wind gusts associated with it.”
He said the storm toppled trees and damaged structures, in what he called very, very widespread, large-scale damage.”
Earlier Friday, the Washington area broke a record high temperature set almost 80 years ago.
The National Weather Service said that just before 3 p.m., it was 104 degrees at Washington Reagan National Airport. That beats the record of 101 set in 1934.
Baltimore was also experiencing temperatures in the 100s. It was 102 at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport around 3 p.m. That was shy of the record of 105 set in 1934.
The National Weather Service is predicting sunny weather Saturday and Sunday in the Greater Washington area, with highs in the upper 90s. Showers and thunderstorms are also possible both days.