At least 18 dead as US storms leave millions without power

 

Millions of people in a swath of states along the US East Coast and farther west went into a third sweltering day without power today after a round of summer storms that killed more than a dozen people.

The outages left many to contend with stifling homes and spoiled food over the weekend as temperatures approached or exceeded 100 degrees (38 Celsius).

Around 2 million from North Carolina to New Jersey and as far west as Illinois were without power this morning. And utility officials said the power would likely be out for several more days. Since Friday, severe weather has been blamed for at least 18 deaths, most from trees falling on homes and cars.

The power outages had prompted concerns of traffic problems as commuters took to roads with darkened stoplights. But throughout northern Virginia, there was less traffic than normal in many places today as federal workers took advantage of liberal leave that was put in place for the day.

To alleviate traffic congestion around Baltimore and Washington, federal and state officials gave many workers the option of staying home Monday. Maryland's governor also gave state workers wide leeway for staying out of the office.

On Sunday night in North Carolina, a 77-year-old man was killed when strong winds collapsed a barn where he was parking an all-terrain vehicle, authorities said. In another part of the state, a couple was killed when a tree fell on the golf cart they were driving. Officials said trees fell onto dozens of houses, and two hangars were destroyed at an airport in Beaufort County.

The damage was mostly blamed on straight-line winds, which are strong gusts pushed ahead of fast-moving thunderstorms like a wall of wind.

Elsewhere, at least six of the dead were killed in Virginia, including a 90-year-old woman asleep in her bed when a tree slammed into her home. Two young cousins in New Jersey were killed when a tree fell on their tent while camping. Two were killed in Maryland, one in Ohio, one in Kentucky and one in Washington.

In West Virginia, authorities said one person died early Sunday when the all-terrain vehicle they were riding hit a tree that had fallen over a road.

From Atlanta to Baltimore, temperatures approached or exceeded heat records. Atlanta set a record with a high of 105 degrees (41 Celsius), while the temperature hit 99 (37 Celsius) at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport just outside the nation's capital. With no air conditioning, officials urged residents to check on their elderly relatives and neighbors. It was tough to find a free pump at gas stations that did have power, and lines of cars snaked around fast-food drive-thrus.

AP

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