Eastern US storms kill 5, cause wide power outages

By Jessica Gresko

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 30 2012 11:16 a.m. MDT

A worker chainsaws a tree that fell onto a tee box on the the 12th hole at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, June 30, 2012, after a strong storm blew through overnight. The AT&T National golf tournament was postponed to allow workers to clear the course.

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Violent storms swept across the eastern U.S., killing at least five people and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands on a day that temperatures across the area are expected to reach triple-digits.

The Mid-Atlantic region had already been experiencing 100-degree temperatures before Friday evening's violent storms. Thousands are without power — and without air conditioning — as crews work to clear downed tree limbs and restore electricity.

Falling trees were blamed for the deaths of two people in Virginia, two in New Jersey and another in Maryland.

Widespread power outages were reported from Indiana to New Jersey, with the bulk of the service interruptions concentrated on Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. 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. But by late morning, it was already plenty hot.

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.

In northwest Washington, tree debris littered sidewalks and roadways. Abdul Hmed, 49, was outside sweeping up for several buildings that he's responsible for cleaning. He had already been at it for two hours by 9 a.m. and expected to be working another two hours. He said the bus he took to work frequently had to swerve around fallen trees.

"It's Mother Nature," he 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.

The storms, sometimes packing 70 mph winds, toppled three tractor trailers on Interstate 75 near Findlay, Ohio.

In addition, a park police officer was injured by an uprooted tree in the northern Virginia county, and an 18-year-old man was struck by a power line, Fairfax County police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency after more than 500,000 customers in 27 counties were left without electricity.

At least four utility poles fell on a road in Columbus, Ohio, making it too dangerous for people in four cars to get out, police said. One person was taken to a hospital.

Amtrak suspended its service from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia due to the storms, at least until mid-morning.

"It has had a widespread effect on the region," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said early Saturday. He said about 17 train stations were operating on backup power due to local power outages, but that he didn't anticipate service being disrupted on Saturday.

Associated Press writers Norman Gomlak in Atlanta, Jeffrey McMurray in Chicago and Rebecca Miller in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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