July 1, 2012

13 killed during violent US storms

Mike Wolfe's pick-up truck lies under a fallen tree in front of his house after a severe storm in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, June 30, 2012. Wolfe's daughter Samanth Wolfe created the for sale sign as a joke.
At least 13 people have died and three million were left without power after violent storms pummelled the eastern United States.

At least six of the dead were killed in Virginia, including a 90-year-old woman who was asleep in 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 people were killed in Maryland, while single deaths were reported in Ohio, Kentucky and Washington.

Energy officials have said the power outages would not be repaired for several days, likening the damage to the effects of a serious hurricane.

Emergencies were declared in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, the District of Columbia and Virginia, where governor Bob McDonnell said the state had its largest non-hurricane outage in history, as more storms threatened. "This is a very dangerous situation," Mr McDonnell said.

The storms converged Friday night on Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency after more than 500,000 customers in 27 counties were left without electricity.

In West Virginia, 232 Amtrak passengers spent Friday night on a train that was blocked on both sides by trees that fell on the tracks, and they were waiting for buses to pick them up on Saturday.

In Illinois, storm damage forced the transfer of dozens of maximum-security, mentally ill prisoners from one prison to another.

In some suburbs of Washington, emergency call centres were out of service, with residents told to call local police and fire departments.

Huge trees fell across streets in Washington, crushing cars underneath, while others fell onto the fairway at the AT&T National golf tournament in Maryland. Mobile phone and internet service was erratic, petrol stations shut down and residents were urged to conserve water until power returned to sewage plants.

The outages were especially dangerous because they left the region without air conditioning in an oppressive heat. Temperatures soared in Baltimore and Washington, reaching 40C on Friday.

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