Video: Thousands without power in D.C. area

  1. Closed captioning of: Thousands without power in D.C. area

    >>> it has been a frustrating weekend. more than 2 million customers remain without power tonight and couldn't have happened at a worse time. with the holiday approaching crews are still trying to clean up the mess from a deadly storm that killed at least 14 people. they cope with stifling heat. it was a scorcher across much of the nation. washington , d.c. and 23 states recorded triple digit temperatures today. we'll tell you how long the heat will last. we begin with christen welker in washington . good evening.

    >> reporter: kate, good evening to you. scenes like this are still the norm here in the washington , d.c. area. this entire region still recovering from friday's massive storm.

    >> frustrated. frustrated. highly frustrated.

    >> reporter: david is still living without power in his washington d.c. home more than 48 hours after a powerful storm hit the region on friday knocking down power lines and trees and wreaking havoc just days before the 4th of july holiday.

    >> most of my neighbors have packed up and left somewhere.

    >> reporter: one of the millions still without power. a big cleanup job from ohio to new jersey and hard hit maryland.

    >> this storm had all of the impact of a hurricane without the warning.

    >> reporter: these maryland crews are working 16 hour days in triple digit heat to get the power back on but officials say it could take up to a week until everybody is restored. is this one of the worst storms you have ever dealt with.

    >> this is the worst storm under the worst conditions. we work in blizzards and the snow. when you deal with the heat it is an entirely different dynamic.

    >> reporter: cooling centers opened up along the east coast . in virginia the lines were long to get into this library. tim shay says it has been a tough weekend.

    >> my black berry device is out and the internet is out at home.

    >> reporter: there are long lines at some gas stations because others have closed having run out of fuel.

    >> it is frustrating. at least it is a sunday and not rush hour. it is still a huge amount of time.

    >> reporter: the storm knocked out trees blocking an amtrak train stranding passengers for more than 20 hours in west virginia before they were picked up by buses saturday night all adding to the frustration and continuing of friday's storms.

    >> we had always thought about taking a train ride and decided now is a time to try it. i have marked it off my bucket list.

    >>> on monday utility crews will come from oklahoma, florida, georgia and missouri to help with restoration efforts. fema continues to work with the most heavily impacted states.

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 7/1/2012 10:11:10 PM ET 2012-07-02T02:11:10

As blistering heat blanketed much of the eastern U.S. for the third straight day, storm-ravaged residents in the mid-Atlantic on Sunday faced stifling homes, spoiled food and a looming commute filled with knocked-out stoplights.

Two days after storms tore across the region, 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.

"If we don't get power tonight, we'll have to throw everything away," Susan Fritz, a mother of three, said grimly of her refrigerator and freezer. Fritz came to a library in Bethesda, Md., so her son could do school work. She charged her phone and iPad at her local gym.

The storm was blamed for 17 deaths, most from trees falling on homes and cars. Meanwhile, Coast Guard officials say they have suspended the search for a man who went missing early Saturday while boating during the storm off Maryland.

"It is very unsafe outdoors for those susceptible to these extreme conditions," the National Weather Service said in a statement.

Utilities were slowly making progress, but more than 2.5 million people still had no electricity and could only watch their thermometers climb.

Other parts of the country were also sweltering. Denver recorded the hottest June on record. The average temperature for the month was 75 degrees, which was 7.6 degrees above normal. There were 17 days in which the maximum temperature exceeded 90 degrees, including a stretch of five consecutive 100-degree days from June 22-26, the weather service said.

In the Midwest, severe thunderstorms packing 80-plus mph winds pummeled the Chicago area on Sunday. There were no immediate reports of homes damaged but ComEd utility officials said about 200,000 customers were left without power. More than 60 kayakers were rescued from the Chicago River after their kayaks flipped when the storm blew in, a fire department official told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The bulk of Friday's 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 they were camping. Two were killed in Maryland, one in Ohio, one in Kentucky and one in Washington.

From Atlanta to Richmond, temperatures were expected to reach triple digits. With no air conditioning, officials urged residents to check on their elderly relatives and neighbors. It was tough to find a free pump at gas stations that did have power, and lines of cars snaked around fast-food drive-thrus.

States worked to make sure the power stayed on at water treatment plants so that people at least had clean water. Chainsaws buzzed throughout neighborhoods as utility crews scrambled to untangle downed trees and power lines. Neighbors banded together.

Image: Tree falls on house in Lynchburg, Va.
Parker Michels-Boyce  /  AP
Frances Lukens looks at the tangle of boards and tree limbs piercing her living room ceiling in Lynchburg, Va., on Saturday after a huge oak tree fell on the house during a storm the previous night.

"Food, ice — we're all sharing," said 51-year-old Elizabeth Knight, who lives in the blue-collar Richmond suburb of Lakeside.

The Friday evening storms, a meteorological phenomenon known as a derecho, moved quickly across the region with little warning. The straight-line winds were just as destructive as any hurricane — but when a tropical system strikes, officials usually have several days to get extra personnel in place. Not so this time.

"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," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Power crews from as far away as Florida and Oklahoma were on their way to the mid-Atlantic region to help get the power back on and the air conditioners running again. Even if people have generators, the gas-run devices often don't have enough power to operate an air conditioner.

And power restoration was spotty: Several people interviewed by The Associated Press said they remained without power even though the lights were on at neighbors' homes across the street.

National Guard troops were brought in to help in New Jersey and West Virginia. Crews had for the most part cleared debris from major roadways, and signals were working in many major intersections. But officials still had much work to do on secondary roads.

Sixty-year-old John Swift was content to rough it, at least for now. The Lakeside resident has a camping stove for cooking, doesn't mind cold showers and doesn't watch TV even when the power is working. He can charge his phone in his car, he said.

"It's hot -- that's the biggest nuisance, the biggest concern," he said.

Forecasters warned the high temperatures put people at risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The National Weather Service told people to drink plenty of fluids, and to stay in air-conditioned rooms away from direct sunlight. Some cities gave residents free admission to swimming pools.

The weather service said yet another round of thunderstorms was possible late Sunday and early Monday, threatening strong winds and hail.

Fire rescue authorities also warned people to be careful when using candles and generators to help light darkened homes. Officials already had gotten calls in Maryland about people sickened by carbon monoxide fumes from generators.

In Waldorf, Md., Charles County emergency officials handed out free 40-pound bags of ice to anyone who needed them. Among the takers was Ann Brown, 47, of Accokeek, Md., who had stayed in a hotel Saturday night because her house was without power.

She went to a cookout in Upper Marlboro, Md., on Saturday after family members decided to cook all the food in the freezer rather than let it go bad.

"Whatever they had, that's what we ate, and it was great," Brown said.

Story: For parts of U.S., a fireworks-free July 4th

Whether she makes the commute to work on Monday will depend entirely on how comfortable the office is.

"If they don't have power, I'm not going. But if they have power, yeah, I'm going in, to be in the air conditioning all day," she said.

A pirate-themed splash park at a recreation center in Franconia was near capacity before noon Sunday. Alan Gorowitz, 44, a civilian Pentagon employee from Springfield, brought his 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. Aside from spoiled food, he said the family wasn't suffering.

"If she wants m-i-l-k, there's nothing I can do," Gorowitz said, gesturing at his daughter as she munched on pretzels. He said the family hadn't done extensive disaster preparation.

"We keep batteries, water, flashlights," Gorowitz said. "My friend across the street has the generator going today, the emergency food stocks and lots of guns. We're not quite there. I don't think we're close to having looters."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

Photos: Storms, extreme heat hit millions

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  1. Baltimore city worker Joe Lane gives away ice to residents at the Northwood Plaza shopping center in Baltimore on Monday, July 2. Around 1.5 million homes and businesses from North Carolina to New Jersey and as far west as Illinois were without power Tuesday after a round of summer storms. (Jose Luis Magana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A Pepco utility employee inspects damaged overhead power lines in Wheaton, Md., on July 2. Blistering heat blanketed much of the eastern U.S. for the fourth straight day, after violent storms that took at least 15 lives. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A worker starts up a new gasoline generator outside a Citibank branch in Silver Spring, Md., on July 2. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A giant southern red oak tree that toppled in Silver Spring, Md., is cut up for removal on July 2. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Katie Kiang sits by an electrical outlet and a quiet spot to study for the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) inside the air-conditioned Westfield Montgomery mall on July 2 in Silver Spring, Md. Kiang and her family had been without electricity for three days. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Amanda Jacobs cools off by swinging into a quarry lake at the Beaver Dam Swimming Club in Cockeysville, Md. on July 2. (Win McNamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Utility workers try to free up power lines on July 2 after a huge tree fell across a road in Falls Church, Va. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Aziz Taylor plays in a water fountain to beat the heat in the Capital Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on July 2. (Larry Downing / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A city worker ties power lines above a traffic signal in Lynchburg City, Va., on July 1. (Parker Michels-Boyce / The News & Advance via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A crew clears a fallen tree from row homes in Washington D.C.'s Trinidad neighborhood on July 1. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Utility workers secure power lines on a pole in Springfield, Va., July 1. (Cliff Owen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Majd Zakr and other Harris Teeter employees hand out free bags of ice to customers outside of their store two days after a massive storm that swept through the region Friday night, July 1, in Bethesda, Md. (Allison Shelley / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A man carries an air conditioner he purchased at a P.C. Richard & Son store, in New York, Sunday, July 1. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A worker clears debris from a large downed tree in Falls Church, Va., July 1. (Cliff Owen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. People play in the fountain at Washington Square Park in New York, July 1. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Frances Lukens looks at the tangle of boards and tree limbs piercing her living room ceiling in Lynchburg, Va., on June 30, after a huge oak tree fell directly on the house during a storm the previous night. (Parker Michels-boyce / The News & Advance via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Linda Gordon, 58, gets some relief with an ice pack aboard a MATA bus brought in as cooling stations during an event in Memphis, Tenn., June 30. The Convoy of Hope hosted a "poverty-free day" for low-income Memphis residents at the Fairgrounds. They were giving haircuts, clothes and groceries out until it was called it off due to the excessive heat. (Mike Maple / The Commercial Appeal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Using crutches, Cooper Scott talks about the car where he and his mother were trapped in Lynchburg, Va., June 30, after a large oak tree fell on them during a violent storm the night before. Both spent most of the night in the hospital but were back at home by Saturday morning. (Parker Michels-Boyce / The News & Advance via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Rachel Myers, 2, of Durham races through the valleys and hills in the newly opened "Into the Mist" exhibit at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C. June 30. The cool mist exhibit made its opening day appearance on a day when temperatures soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the second day in a row. (Chuck Liddy / The News & Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A calendar shows temperatures recorded by Bob Richmeier, in Hill City, Kan., June 30. Hill City, best known for its bountiful pheasant hunting and museum of oil history, suffered through five days of brutal heat that topped out at 115 degrees. (Steve Hebert / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Robert St. Denny plays with his daughter, 9-month-old Lily St. Denny, as his wife Kelly Reyes sits at right, at a Red Cross shelter at Northwestern High School gym, June 30, in Hyattsville, Md. The apartment complex the St. Denny's live in was damaged by violent evening storms following a day of triple-digit temperatures that also wiped out power to more than 2 million people across the eastern United States. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Local residents observe damage after a powerful overnight storm in the Washington, D.C., region June 30, in Falls Church, Va. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Turner Field vendors Demetrius Smith, left, and James Jernigan use bags of ice to stay cool while working at the baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals at Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga., June 30. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. People crowd at the beach at Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York June 30. About 3.9 million homes and businesses were without power on Saturday amid a record heat wave in the eastern United States after deadly thunderstorms downed power lines from Indiana to New Jersey. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Arlington County residents pass the time in the Central Public Library after it was made an official cooling station in Arlington, Va., June 30. (Cliff Owen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Drivers crowd a gas station in the Tenleytown section of Washington, D.C., June 30, during a massive power outage resulting from a powerful storm late Friday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A woman inspects a car left in the middle of the road after a massive storm knocked out power on June 30, in Takoma Park, Md. (Allison Shelley / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A bicyclist navigates a sidewalk blocked by a fallen tree that also damaged a parked vehicle in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, June 30. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Cars line up for gas on Saturday, June 30, in Charleston, W.V. (Jeff Gentner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Workers cut up a fallen tree, so that power lines can be repaired, in Huntington, Md. Over a million homes across the Washington area lost power after a severe thunderstorm hit the area. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A tinted window on a condo complex door reflects the broken trunks of two of the four large pine trees destroyed the previous night in a massive storm that knocked out power for the neighborhood, June 30, in Takoma Park, Md. (Allison Shelley / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Mario Starks and Stacia Yearwood roll their belongings, including a full-sized keyboard and a cooking pot, through their neighborhood toward a friend's house the morning after a massive storm knocked out their power, as well as that of thousands of others in the region on June 30, in Takoma Park, Md. (Allison Shelley / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Resident Sandra Patterson, left, and friend Julia Gilliard inspect a downed tree in Patterson's front yard on a heavily damaged block the morning after a massive storm knocked out trees and power in the region on June 30, in Forest Glen, Md. (Allison Shelley / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. An uprooted tree caused lies across a street in the American University neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on June 30. (Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Power lines hang from a utility pole snapped in half as a fallen tree covers a car in Arlington, Va., June 30. (Win McNamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Storm-damaged trees litter the east lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 30. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. A power company worker surveys damage to overhead power lines on Canal Road in Washington, D.C., June 30. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Workers ride in a golf cart overloaded with tree branches as they clean up at the AT&T National in Bethesda, Md., June 30. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Workers remove debris from the 14th fairway due to overnight storm damage that delayed the start of Round Three of the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club on June 30, in Bethesda, Md. (Rob Carr / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A worker uses a chainsaw to clear branches from a tree that fell onto the 14th fairway at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., June 30. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. A trampoline is seen smashed into the side of a garage by a violent storm in Lima, Ohio, June 29. (Gretchen White / The Lima News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Columbus Grove police chief Nicholas Gilgenbach, right, talks with CSX personnel in front of the destroyed storefront of Christie's on the Square after strong winds tore through the region earlier in the day, June 29. (Jay Sowers / The Lima News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A two-alarm fire started by a lightning strike from a thunderstorm late Friday night engulfs a home north of Frederick, Md., early Saturday, June 30. (Sam Yu / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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