Extreme heat causes power outages throughout the US

Posted at 11:19 PM, Jul 07, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-07 23:19:16-04

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — A cold front was expected in some U.S. states this weekend, bringing much-needed relief in communities baking in a lingering heat wave for more than a week.

The cold front will move across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes on Saturday, and into Ohio and the northeast the following day, bringing significantly cooler air, according to the National Weather Service.

But despite the cold front, temperatures could remain high until Sunday. The heat wave has left scores dead and hundreds of thousands without power.

Temperatures were projected Saturday to touch or top 100 degrees in a Midwestern swath stretching from south-central Iowa to the Chicago area to Louisville, Kentucky, to West Virginia, the weather service said. Southern Michigan, Inidana, Ohio, and southeast Missouri were also in the hot zone Saturday.

An excessive heat warning is also active Saturday on the Eastern Seaboard, from Newark, New Jersey, to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The heat wave is leaving a significant mark: Nationwide, there have been more than 4,500 daily record highs in the last 30 days, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Also, the heat has brought nearly 240 all-time record highs between June 23 and July 5, CNN meteorologist Alexandra Steele said Saturday.

Forecasters said the cold front will help bring those numbers down some Sunday — but at a cost. The front is expected to carry damaging storms, with large hail and strong winds, Steele said.

“It’s relief at a price,” Steele said.

She predicted a long, hot summer for the country.

“Heat begets heat,” Steele said.

In Maryland, nine heat-related deaths have been counted since Monday, said the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The nine victims were men, and all but one were more than 65 years old, with the exception being between ages 45 and 64, the Maryland agency said. Four deaths occurred in Baltimore, two in Baltimore County and one each in Montgomery and Wicomico Counties, the agency said.

Meanwhile, about 322,000 customers across 12 states and the District of Columbia suffered Saturday in the heat without the benefits of electricity, including power for their air conditioning and for refrigeration to keep their food edible, according to a CNN count Saturday evening.

Because utilities typically define each residential and business account as a customer, the actual number of people affected was not clear.

Many of these people have gone without power for a full week, thanks to strong storms fueled by the heat that barreled east from Indiana to New Jersey. Others have watched more recent but similar storms leave them in the dark.

The hardest-hit state continues to be West Virginia, where about 116,000 customers had no power Saturday.

Residents have been stocking up on ice to try to save food from spoiling in their useless refrigerators to the point that stores have sold out of it, CNN affiliate WSAZ reported.

Roger Harrah said he traveled from county to county, some 60 miles, searching for ice Friday and finally found a store with some.

“I thought I better get some while I can,” Harrah said. “I tell you what, it is rough living without ice.”

The extreme heat has also damaged roads.

Wisconsin received about 30 reports of roads buckling Thursday, according to transportation officials. Earlier this week, a viral video showed an SUV airborne after hitting a patch of buckled Wisconsin highway. Missouri has also warned drivers to be on the look-out for pavement buckling from heat.

And since June 23, scores of cities have been the hottest they’ve ever been, on any day ever recorded. That includes 107 in Colorado Springs, 109 in Nashville and 106 in Atlanta. In Washington, the thermometer has gone past 95 degrees for nine straight days — the longest such streak since modern record-keeping began.

The high temperatures have been linked to a number of other deaths nationwide.

That includes five deaths — of men ages 48, 58 and 59 and two women ages 81 and 91 — because of “heat stress” in Chicago, city public health spokesman Efrat Stein said Friday. An additional heat-related death was reported in nearby Cook County, according to Stein.

CNN’s Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

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