More than 1.1 million lack power amid heatwave

power-out

(CNN) — Though it is Independence Day, a national holiday, utility workers will continue working feverishly to help the more than a million people stuck in an unrelenting heatwave without power.

Excessive heat warnings were in place Wednesday for portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri Illinois and Kentucky with the National Weather Service saying that those areas would be scorched with temperatures near or above triple digits.

Heat advisory warnings were in place for a handful of states, including parts of South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and West Virginia.

This is not good news for the many who are powerless, without air conditioning, left with food spoiling in their useless refrigerators.

As of early Wednesday morning, about 1.1 million customers scattered across 11 states, from Indiana to Delaware, had no electricity, down from about 1.8 million late Monday — and a peak of 4 million over the weekend. A household is considered one customer, so the actual number of people without power is higher.

And as crews tried to restore power many were left overheated and frustrated.

In the West Virginia city of Parkersburg on Tuesday some residents said they were without power for four days.

“It’s pretty bad. The heat is the bad thing. We can’t keep our apartment cool. I’ve never been without electric for this long,” Kenny Gant told CNN affiliate WTAP.

Police officers and National Guardsman handed out cases of water Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bob Newell said.

“What we decided to do was pair the guard up with a police officer and a firefighter who is also an EMT so we can systematically go door to door in these areas and check to see if anyone needed any medical help from the heat,” Newell told WTAP.

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray opened six sites to distribute boxed lunches to residents, many of whom lost the means to prepare meals and saw refrigerated items spoil.

“This has been quite an ordeal,” Mayor Gray said stressing the need for greater responsibility on the part of the local power company.

“We need a game change. We need to speak not so much about how quickly we restore power, but how do we reduce the likelihood of this happening again in the future,” he said.

The major power outage was spurred by deadly heat-driven storms that started Friday. At least 17 people were killed from Ohio to New Jersey in the derecho, or massive storm packing straight-line wind damage, while another three in North Carolina died in a second round of storms Sunday.

Many power companies said they would be working on July Fourth to help repair some of the damage.

But the effort is enormous, some say.

“We’ll end up rebuilding large pieces of an infrastructure system in five to seven days that took decades to build,” and crews are working in 16-hour shifts, said Scott Surgeoner, spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., which covers the state’s northern half. He said the company hopes the “bulk” of the 125,000 customers lacking power will be restored by Wednesday night, but some outages will stretch into the weekend.

“This is the worst outage we’ve ever had,” said Jeri Matheny, spokeswoman for Appalachian Power, which serves most of southern West Virginia. She said it’s hoped power would be restored to all customers by midnight Sunday.

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