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Independence Day plans hit by US power cuts and heat

Category: Headlines

Published: 4th Jul 2012 19:38:39

Nearly one million Americans are marking Independence Day amid a scramble to restore power five days after severe storms hit the eastern US.

Residents without air-conditioning or working refrigerators are facing searing heat in the storm's wake.

Some towns have had to cancel firework displays marking the national holiday, saying police and firefighters cannot be spared as repairs continue.

Some customers are expected be without power until the weekend.

However, Washington and Maryland electricity provider Pepco brought some cheer to its stricken customers on Thursday, predicting 90% restoration by the end of the 4 July holiday - two days ahead of its initial estimate.

"We were able to get more mutual assistance crews from out of state than we expected, and we thank our employees and local contractors for their tireless work," the company said.

The damage was mostly blamed on a meteorological phenomenon known as a derecho, which saw hurricane-force winds buffeted ahead of fast-moving thunderstorms.

The derecho brought down trees and power lines, leaving three million people without electricity in the wake of the storm.

The extreme heat, which continued over the following days, has been blamed for 24 deaths in seven states so far.

The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings for parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

It warned that "a prolonged period of dangerously hot temperatures will occur", and advised residents to wear loose-fitting clothes, drink plenty of water and check up on friends and neighbours.

Heat indices could climb to 105F (41C) in some affected areas, the warning said.

In Maryland, the town of Rockville has cancelled its official celebrations because of trees and wires blocking two of three entrances to the venue. In Gaithersburg the city manager said utility companies were using its fairgrounds as a staging area for repairs.

Utility regulators in Maryland and the District of Columbia said they were partly to blame for the slow restoration of service to customers, the Washington Post has reported.

Regulators should have required power companies to meet higher standards, Douglas Nazarian, chairman of Maryland Public Service Commission said.

As of Tuesday night about 85,000 customers of Pepco, a power company operating in the Washington DC area, had no electricity.

Meanwhile, almost half of those still without power are said to be in West Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains region of Virginia.

West Virginia officials have asked residents not to set off fireworks at home because the high temperatures have increased the risk of fire in many places. Fallen trees that have not yet been removed could add to the hazard, they say.

Further west, Colorado is one of several states hit by destructive wildfires rage in recent weeks that are scrapping their firework displays too, amid fears that dry grass could become tinder for wildfires.

Festivities are planned to go ahead on the National Mall in Washington DC, and at George Washington's historic home at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

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BBC News, 2012. Independence Day plans hit by US power cuts and heat [Online] (Updated 4th Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1438682/Independence-Day-plans-hit-by-US-power-cuts-and-heat [Accessed 28th Aug 2014]

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