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Millions lose power in Mid-Atlantic

Cooling centers opened as region girds for record heat and little air conditioning following severe storms

BY JIM SKILLINGTON | BALTIMORE | June 30, 2012

Predicted high temperatures, combined with power outages that have affected as many as two million customers in the Mid-Atlantic states, is creating a potentially dangerous conditions for residents in the region.

Heat advisories through the weekend with predicted temperatures reaching 100-degrees is complicating emergency response. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management tweeted that residents should "check on your elderly neighbors today and remind them to drink lots of water, give them access to air conditioning and keep them cool."

The District of Columbia opened nearly 40 cooling centers for its senior citizens. Ten spray parks were also announced to help residents cool off. In Maryland public libraries in Harford County and a high school in near Annapolis were also opened as cooling centers.

Shopping malls throughout the region opened early Saturday, inviting residents to escape the heat while they shopped, and harkening back to the days before the widespread use of the Internet, local radio stations were broadcasting the names of hotels with rooms and gas stations that were open.

A swath of thunderstorms more than 100 miles wide swept across Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and the District of Columbia late Friday night, leaving behind a trail of death, damaged buildings, downed trees and power lines. The storms also snarled public transportion as airline and rail service came to a halt. According to the National Weather Service, at least six people were killed in by the storms, including two children killed on a family camping trip at a New Jersey state park.

The storms, packing winds of 50 to 80 mph, were a type of thunderstorms called Derecho, which are more often seen in the Midwest.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency as more than 500,000 residents across 27 counties were without power. Travel restrictions were in place in Atlantic County, NJ, while emergency officials continued damage assessments. A spokesperson for Baltimore Gas and Electric, comparing the damage to that following major hurricanes, said power restoration will take a number of days. More than 400,000 BGE customers were without power Saturday morning.

The severe storms followed a day that broke many heat records.

Forecasters from Accuweather.com said the predicted temperatures combined with high humidity will create potentially dangerous conditions over in the next few days in the Mid-Atlantic, the South, the southern Plains and the Ohio Valley. Forecasters suggested residents without power consider moving to their basements until the sweltering heat abates.


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