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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NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 7/3/2012 12:44:29 AM ET 2012-07-03T04:44:29

The eastern U.S. on Monday was hammered by the fourth consecutive day of stifling heat after a weekend of violent storms that killed 15 people and knocked out power to millions.

Nearly 2 million people were still without power Monday, with the biggest concentration of outages in the Washington, D.C. area. Power companies warned it could take several days to restore electricity completely in some areas.

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The U.S. government told federal workers in the Washington area they could take unscheduled leave or work from home on Monday and Tuesday.

Two of the largest property insurers, USAA and Nationwide, said they had received more than 12,000 claims in total from the weekend storms. Most were for house damage.

The storms capped a costly June for insurers, which were already facing losses of at least $1 billion from a hailstorm that ripped through Dallas.

"Hot and hotter will continue to be the story from the plains to the Atlantic Coast for the next few days," the National Weather Service said.

From June 25 to July 1, nearly 2,200 record temperatures were either broken or matched, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Monday. For the 30 days of June, the number rose to more than 3,200.

Accuweather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said the number of records broken was very unusual. He said that while some aspects of the heat wave are unknown, much of it is because of a lack of snow cover during the late winter on America's plains.

Instead of the sun's heat melting snow, it instead heated the ground, which in turn warmed the air. The increase in temperature even made crops grow ahead of schedule until now; Sosnowski said the lack of rainfall has stunted crops' growth.

Sosnowski added that while some areas are not unusually warm, namely New England and the Northwest, the center of the country will experience high temperatures for the next several weeks, possibly into August.

Five states had more than 100 record temperatures broken in June. Texas had 237 records broken, followed by Colorado (226), Kansas (164), Missouri (126), and Arkansas (115).

Monday brought another grim challenge when many embarked on a difficult commute over roads with darkened stoplights.

Slideshow: Storms, extreme heat hit millions (on this page)

To alleviate congestion around Baltimore and Washington, federal and state officials gave many workers the option of staying home Monday. Federal agencies will be open in Washington, but non-emergency employees have the option of taking leave or working from home. Maryland's governor also gave state workers wide leeway for staying out of the office.

There were more than 500 signal outages in Maryland on Sunday afternoon, including more than 400 in hard-hit Montgomery County outside the nation's capital, according to the State Highway Administration. There were 100 signal outages in northern Virginia late Sunday afternoon, and 65 roads were closed, although most were secondary roads.

"If you have to drive or need to drive, leave yourself a lot of extra time," Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar said. "There's going to be delays."

And it was set to remain unseasonably sweltering, with heat warnings continuing into Monday after hundreds of daily high temperature records were broken throughout the region over the weekend, the National Weather Service said.

Temperatures approached or exceeded 100 degrees in many storm-stricken areas, and utility officials said the power will likely be out for several more days.

The heat was set to linger over the East Coast for a few days at least, Weather.com reported.

"High pressure in the upper atmosphere will shift back to the central states, focusing the core of above-average temperatures over that region of the country eastward into mid-Atlantic,” it reported. "Minneapolis, Minn., St. Louis, Mo., Chicago, Ill. and Washington, D.C. are just a few of the cities that should prepare for a sultry week ahead."

Emergencies were declared in Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., on Saturday because of damage from storms that unleashed hurricane-force winds across and a 500-mile stretch of the mid-Atlantic region.

Storm-hit East could face power outages for days

The storms' rampage came as sweltering temperatures topped 100 Fahrenheit in several southern cities, including Atlanta, where the mercury hit an all-time record of 106 degrees on Saturday and reached 105 on Sunday.

Over two dozen cities across 10 states set or tied all-time record high temperatures on Friday and Saturday, including Columbia, South Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News, msnbc.com staff and weather.com contributed to this story.

Video: Triple digit heat follows power outages

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