500,000 US customers still without power after storms

Fri Jul 6, 2012 12:38am IST

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* West Virginia hardest hit state

* Heat wave to continue through weekend

July 5 (Reuters) - Six days after violent storms hit the United States, more than 500,000 homes and businesses remained without power from Ohio to Virginia as a heat wave baked much of the nation on Thursday.

Nearly a third of electricity customers in West Virginia, home to 1.9 million people, were without power, making it the hardest hit state. Utilities warned that some people could be without power for the rest of the week in the worst-hit areas.

Temperatures in Charleston, West Virginia's capital and largest city, were expected to reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) on Thursday and top 100 degrees (38 Celsius) on Friday and Saturday before returning to near normal levels in the mid 80s (around 29 Celsius) by Monday, according to Accuweather.com.

In New York City, Consolidated Edison Inc. worked to repair equipment to end a dip in electrical power, or brownout, in Brooklyn as heavy air conditioning usage strained supplies.

The heat wave was bad news for Midwest farmers whose corn crop was suffering from drought in the middle of a crucial growth phase.

The U.S. Drought Monitor showed an expanding area of abnormally dry and drought conditions in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri. Corn and soybean prices jumped to new highs on Thursday as the heat scorched crops.

"It's not only abnormally dry, but now you have 100 degree heat combined with the ongoing drought and it's too much for the crop," Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

A cluster of gusty storms which formed over lower Michigan Wednesday night drifted over Ohio Thursday morning and moved into West Virginia, bringing sporadic rainfall, Sosnowski said.

The Midwest and East should start seeing more normal temperatures next week, when the extreme heat moves west, bringing triple-digit temperatures to parts of Idaho, Utah, Washington and Oregon.

The temperature was expected to top 100 degrees for a second day in a row in Chicago on Thursday. Summer school was canceled at 21 public school buildings without air conditioning. Part of Columbus Drive near downtown was closed after pavement buckled.

On Saturday, Washington, D.C., could break its all-time record of 106 degrees (41 Celsius) set in 1930, Sosnowski said.

The storms crossed the eastern United States with heavy rain, hail and winds reaching 80 miles per hour (129 kph) last Friday, leaving more than 4 million homes and businesses without power, and the record heat that followed has killed at least 23 people.

American Electric Power Co Inc of Ohio said about 224,000 homes and businesses remained without power in West Virginia and Virginia, and about 144,000 in Ohio.

FirstEnergy Corp of Ohio said it was working to restore power to more than 111,000 customers in West Virginia and Maryland. That was down from about the initial 566,000 homes and businesses affected by the storms.

Illinois-based Exelon Corp said its Baltimore Gas and Electric unit still had about 53,000 customers out in Maryland.

Virginia power company Dominion Resources Inc said it had about 29,000 customers still without power in its Virginia and North Carolina service areas.

Washington, D.C.-based Pepco Holdings Inc said it had about 20,300 customers without power in the District of Columbia and Maryland, and about 16,100 were out in New Jersey.

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