Millions in US facing heatwave without power after storms
MILLIONS of Americans could be without power for up to a week during an intense heatwave after severe storms caused chaos across the eastern United States.
At least 12 people died when hurricane-force winds up to 80mph swept across a 500-mile stretch of the mid Atlantic region on Friday and Saturday, forcing states of emergency to be declared in Washington DC, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
Power was lost in three million homes and while many had electricity restored by Sunday night, there were warnings that it could take a week before all residents have power back.
Six people were killed in Virginia in storm-related incidents. Two Maryland residents died in the storm – one struck by a falling tree, the other electrocuted after a tree crashed into a house.
In New Jersey, two cousins, aged two and seven, were killed by a falling tree in a state park.
The storm also caused transport chaos. In West Virginia 232 passengers on a New York to Chicago train were stranded for more than 20 hours after falling trees blocked the track.
The storms were followed by roasting heat and with temperatures reaching record levels in some parts of the country, the lack of electricity will mean homes will not be able to use air conditioning units.
Twenty states are under excessive heat warnings or heat advisories, with the National Weather Service warning that temperatures above 100F (38C), which are expected in many parts of the country this week, could make it dangerous for the frail and the very young to go outside.
"It is very unsafe outdoors for those susceptible to these extreme conditions," a spokesman said.
Already two boys, aged three and five, have died in Tennessee, with heat exhaustion being suggested as a possible cause, according to The Associated Press.
The boys had been playing outside in 105-degree Fahrenheit (41-degree Celsius) heat shortly before they were taken to hospital. Family members said heat was to blame.
Barack Obama has already telephoned the governors of those states who have declared a state of emergency.
The president authorised the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in storm-ravaged Ohio, which is a key swing state in the forthcoming election.
John Kasich, governor of Ohio, said: "I'm very concerned with the problems created by the combination of power outages and severe heat." The storms itself claimed at least 10 victims.
Last summer was the hottest on record for many US states, but this year is already on course to be even hotter.
Heat records for June were broken on Friday in Washington, Nashville in Tennessee, Louisville in Kentucky and Atlanta. The temperature hit at least 104F (40C) in all four cities, according to the National Weather Service.
Those states with an excessive heat warning include South Carolina where heat index temperatures could reach 120F (48C), according to the National Weather Service.
In Virginia, authorities opened 90 air-conditioned shelters where residents could go to escape the heat.