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Millions Remain Without Power As Heat Rises


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Hundreds of thousands of people from New Jersey to North Carolina and as far west as Illinois were still without power today, three days after a violent storm swept through the region. And it could well be the weekend before many get their power back. Up to 22 deaths have been attributed to the weather.

As NPR's Pam Fessler reports, the biggest concern now is the impact of continued high temperatures on people who have nowhere cool to go.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: At a Harris Teeter store in north Bethesda, Maryland, workers were piling up bags of ice at the back of an 18-wheeler this morning. They were handing out the bags to customers affected by Friday night's violent storm. Joyce Siegel(ph) of Bethesda said she came to pick up some free ice for her daughter.

JOYCE SIEGEL: She's without any power and is losing all her food, so we're trying to save what we can.

FESSLER: Siegel said she's one of the few people in her neighborhood with power, so she's also trying to cook some of the food as she can before it spoils. Three days after the storm, the region is still deep in the throes of recovery. High temperatures have made that a special challenge - they topped 100 over the weekend and remained in the high 90s in many places today. At a cooling shelter in Rockville, Maryland, 80-year-old Kathy Kunsman(ph) has been out of her home for three days and isn't sure when she's going back.

KATHY KUNSMAN: It's hard. It's hard, yeah. And I'm feeling the heat and my ankles are puffy, you know, so I'm here.

FESSLER: The storm hit this area, as well as much of the Mid-Atlantic region, with a vengeance. It took many people by surprise, not only because of its destructive power, but the wide area affected. Bob Spieldenner(ph) is a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

BOB SPIELDENNER: To have damage all the way from northern Virginia down to southern Virginia, all the way through to the eastern side of Virginia, that's something that's unique. We don't get that from thunderstorms, we get that kind of damage coming from hurricanes.

FESSLER: And, indeed, there were hurricane-strength winds reported in some areas, around 80 miles per hour in Ohio. It was more like 60 or 70 miles per hour by the time it reached Virginia. Spieldenner says as many as 10 people in the state died, several hit by falling trees.

SPIELDENNER: Of course, now, moving forward, we're definitely concerned with people succumbing to heat-related injuries.

FESSLER: But with trees and power lines down across hundreds of miles, repairs are difficult. Dave Velazquez(ph) is executive vice president of power delivery for Pepco Holdings, which has power companies in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC. He says the suddenness of the storm has complicated the recovery.

DAVE VELAZQUEZ: Because unlike a hurricane, where you have several days' notice to prepare, this came without warning, so you do not have time to pre-stage crews from other utilities to start restoration immediately.

FESSLER: So, he says some of their 32,000 customers who lost electricity could still be without it this weekend. Velazquez says the company is getting help from as far away as Quebec, and hopes most power will be restored by Friday. That's small solace to those without it. In many areas, people who could have been flocking to shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants - anywhere they could find relief.

PAM THOMPSON: We've been going strong.

FESSLER: Pam Thompson(ph) owns a 24-hour Sonoco gas station in Silver Spring, Maryland. She says her business has been nonstop since Friday, except when she ran out of gas for a few hours. Her convenience store has also been mobbed.

THOMPSON: We keep running out of ice but we're doing the best we can. We have a lot of neighborhood people charging their cellphones here and coming in to get a little relief from the heat.

FESSLER: And that heat is expected to continue, with temperatures well into the 90s in much of the region for the rest of this week. Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.
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