A heat wave baking the eastern US in record temperatures continued yesterday after deadly storms killed at least 12 people, downed power lines from Indiana to Maryland and left more than 3 million customers without power.
Emergencies were declared in Washington, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia on Saturday because of damage from overnight storms, which unleashed hurricane-force winds across a 800km stretch of the mid-Atlantic region.
US President Barack Obama -authorized the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in storm-ravaged Ohio.
The storm’s rampage was followed by roasting temperatures that topped 38oC in several southern cities, including Atlanta, where the mercury hit 41oC, according to Accuweather.com.
Power crews worked into the night to try to restore service to homes and businesses and officials said in some areas the job could take up to a week. Utilities in Ohio, Virginia and Maryland described damage to their power grids as catastrophic.
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. Ohio Governor John Kasich said it could take a week to fully restore power.
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.
Further north, the storm caused outages from Indiana, where 135,000 customers lost power, to New Jersey, where Atlantic County declared a state of emergency and at least 206,000 customers were without power.
Blazing temperatures in New York, where thermometer readings were in the between 32oC and 38oC on Saturday, came ahead of a threat of strike by 8,500 Consolidated Edison workers over a new contract.
Early yesterday morning, the company locked out its unionized workers after contract talks broke down, both sides said, raising the possibility of power cuts during the heat wave.
The company asked to extend negotiations for two more weeks, it said, but the union refused. In response, the firm told union members not to report for work yesterday.
Utilities Workers Union of America spokesman John Melia said that as of 2am yesterday its 8,500 ConEd power workers were locked out.