Thousands of Americans Lacking Power Amid Heat Wave

More Than 1 Million Lack Power After ‘Hurricane Punch’ Storm
Landscapers work to dismantle a giant oak tree that was blown over in last Friday's deadly storm in Silver Spring, Maryland. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Six days after severe storms swept across the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, hundreds of thousands remain without power as temperatures are forecast to reach triple digits.

The temperature is expected to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in Washington today and tomorrow and peak at 103 this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Baltimore will reach 101 today and 102 this weekend. The National Climatic Data Center said 108 temperature records were set or tied as the U.S. celebrated Independence Day yesterday.

More than 616,000 people still lack electricity after the June 29 storm as of 9 a.m., a 41 percent decrease from yesterday, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Daily average temperatures are forecast to be at least 8 degrees higher than normal in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic through July 9 before more seasonal conditions return, according to Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Widespread 100s from Chicago into many parts of the southern Midwest extends into the mid-Atlantic before the conclusion of the current, record-breaking heat wave this weekend,” Rogers said.

A storm system known as a derecho, with lightning and wind gusts of 91 miles (146 kilometers) per hour, took out power lines and transformers in 10 states and the District of Columbia. The storm, which disrupted electricity for as many as 4.3 million customers from North Carolina to New Jersey, caused the most widespread blackouts since Hurricane Irene struck in August.

Fireworks Canceled

Fourth of July fireworks in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Rockville, Maryland, were canceled because of storm damage, according to the towns’ websites. Some customers may not get electricity back until July 10, according to utility companies.

At least 26 people were killed by the storm or its aftermath, the Associated Press reported. Hurricane Irene, which made landfall in North Carolina on Aug. 27, caused blackouts for more than 5.6 million customers in eight states, the Energy Department reported.

Exelon Corp.’s Baltimore Gas & Electric has restored electricity to almost 92 percent of the more than 700,000 customers affected by the storm. The company expects restoration work to continue through the weekend, according to a statement today.

Dominion Power

Pepco Holdings Inc., which delivers power in the Washington area, had restored service to about 89 percent of its affected customers as of yesterday.

Dominion Resources Inc., the largest utility in Virginia, has restored service to more than 95 percent of the 1 million customers that lost power from the storm.

Almost all of the company’s customers in Northern Virginia and the Richmond metropolitan area will have power restored by tomorrow night after “the largest non-hurricane event in the company’s history,” Dominion said in a statement yesterday.

American Electric Power Co. still had more than 400,000 customers without electricity as of yesterday and some repairs will continue through July 10. More than 1.4 million of the Columbus, Ohio-based company’s customers were affected by a storm it said was the worst since Hurricane Ike in 2008.

On July 1, President Barack Obama declared West Virginia and Ohio federal disaster areas. Other states affected were Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, according to the Edison Electric Institute, a Washington-based group that represents utilities.

‘Smaller Increments’

“With a hurricane you get pretty good advance warning,” said Jim Owen, a spokesman for Edison Electric. “In this case, that just didn’t happen and people find that frustrating. The storm just came out of nowhere.”

Progress in restoring power may be slower in the coming days, Owen said in a phone interview yesterday.

“At the beginning you are able to take actions that restore larger numbers of people, but as you get further down into it, you restore smaller increments,” Owen said. “If you don’t have your electricity back, you’re not in a happy place because it’s still in the high 90s.”

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