* Many without air conditioning in triple-digit heat
* Ohio, Virginia, W.Virginia, Washington states of emergency
* AT&T National golf tournament closed to spectators
By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON, June 30 Millions of people across
the eastern United States baked in record heat on Saturday after
deadly thunderstorms downed powerlines from Indiana to Maryland,
killing at least 12 people and leaving over 3 million homes and
businesses without power.
Emergencies were declared in Washington D.C., Ohio, Virginia
and West Virginia because of damage from overnight storms, w hich
unleashed hurricane-force winds across a 500-mile (800-km)
stretch of the mid-Atlantic region.
President Barack Obama on Saturday authorized the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, or F EMA, to coordinate all disaster
relief efforts i n the storm-ravaged Ohio.
The storms' rampage was followed by roasting temperatures
t hat topped 100 Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) in several southern
cities, including Atlanta, where the mercury hit 106 degrees (41
Celsius), and Charlotte, North Carolina, where it reached 102 F
(38 C), according to Accuweather.com.
Restoring power in some areas could take up to a week.
Utilities in Ohio, Virginia a nd Maryland d escribed s torm damage
to their power grids a s catastrophic.
"It's going to be a while before some folks get power, and
with the heat, that's our big concern," said Bob Spieldenner, a
spokesman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Six people were killed in Virginia in storm-related
incidents, and more than 1 million customers w ere left without
power in the worst outage not linked to a hurricane in the
state's history, he said.
Two Maryland residents died in the storm, one struck by a
falling tree in Anne Arundel County, the other electrocuted
after a tree crashed into a house in Montgomery County, said
state emergency management agency spokesman Edward Hopkins.
In New Jersey, two cousins aged 2 and 7 were killed by a
falling tree in a state park. And in eastern Tennessee, heat was
blamed for the deaths of two brothers, ages 3 and 5, in Bradley
County. They had been playing outside in 105-degree heat.
In Maryland, about 800,000 customers were without power with
outages reported throughout the state, Hopkins said.
Several high voltage transmission lines that carry power
long distances were significantly damaged by the storm, he said.
"In many cases, it could take up to five to six days for the
restoration of services to those lines," he added.
Ohio, where one storm-related death was reported, faced
similar difficulties. Outages hit two-thirds of the state with
about 1 million homes and businesses left without electricity.
Governor John Kasich said it could take a week to fully restore
West Virginia was also hard hit by storm-related outages,
with about 614,000 customers without power, said Terrance
Lively, spokesman for the state emergency management agency.
FEELING THE HEAT
Further north, the storm caused outages from Indiana, where
135,000 customers lost power, to New Jersey where A tlantic
County declared a state of emergency and at least 206,000
customers were without power.
The storm also knocked out Amtrak passenger rail service
between Washington and Philadelphia, Amtrak said.
Power companies called in crews from utilities in
neighboring states to help restore electricity.
The widespread power outages came as the National Weather
Service forecast more heat and severe thunderstorms across the
Ohio Valley, through the mid-Atlantic states and into New York.
Blazing temperatures in New York, where thermometer readings
were in the 90s on Saturday, came ahead of a possible strike by
8,500 Consolidated Edison workers over a new contract.
The union membership has authorized its leaders to call a
strike at midnight Saturday, when their collective bargaining
If the 8,500 Con Ed workers do walk off, that would leave
managers and any crews the company can hire to fix whatever
problems arise as 8.2 million New Yorkers crank up their air
conditioners to beat the heat.
Up and down the East Coast, state and local officials urged
residents to seek air-conditioned spaces, drink l ots of water
and wear light-colored clothing. They also called on people to
watch out for those most vulnerable to high heat - the elderly,
small children and the mentally ill.
"Our biggest concern right now is temperatures going up to
100 degrees today," said Ed McDonough, spokesman for the
Maryland emergency management agency.
Records for June were broken on Friday in Washington,
Atlanta, Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky. The
temperature hit at least 104 F (40 C) in all four cities,
according to the National Weather Service.
The high heat prompted the AT&T National golf tournament at
the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, to close
the competition to spectators and volunteers on Saturday.
Weather even struck the Internet. The storms disrupted power
for Amazon.com Inc cloud computing operations and disrupted
online services such as the video streaming website Netflix,
photo sharing company Instagram and online pinboard Pinterest,
the Wall Street Journal reported.
A representative from Amazon could not be reached for
comment. Netflix and Pinterest reported on their Twitter pages
by early Saturday that they had resolved their problems.