WASHINGTON - Millions across the mid-Atlantic region sweltered Saturday in the aftermath of violent storms that pummeled the eastern U.S. with high winds and downed trees, killing at least 13 people and leaving 3 million without power during a heat wave.
Power officials said the outages wouldn't be repaired for several days to a week, likening the damage to a serious hurricane. Emergencies were declared in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, the District of Columbia and Virginia, where Gov. Bob McDonnell said the state had its largest non-hurricane outage in history, as more storms threatened. "This is a very dangerous situation," the governor said.
In West Virginia, 232 Amtrak passengers were stranded Friday night on a train that was blocked on both sides by trees that fell on the tracks, spending about 20 hours at a rural station before buses picked them up. And in Illinois, storm damage forced the transfer of dozens of maximum-security, mentally ill prisoners from one prison to another.
A worker uses a chainsaw to clear branches from a tree that fell onto the 14th fairway at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, after a strong storm blew through overnight.
In some Virginia suburbs of Washington, emergency 911 call centers were out of service; residents were told to call local police and fire departments. Huge trees fell across streets in Washington, leaving cars crunched up next to them, and onto the fairway at the AT&T National golf tournament in Maryland. Cell phone and Internet service was spotty, gas stations shut down and residents were urged to conserve water until sewage plants returned to power.
The outages were especially dangerous because they left the region without air conditioning in an oppressive heat. Temperatures soared to highs in the mid-90s in Baltimore and Washington, where it had hit 104 on Friday.
"I've called everybody except for the state police to try to get power going," said Karen Fryer, resident services director at two assisted living facilities in Washington. The facilities had generator power, but needed to go out for portable air conditioning units, and Fryer worried about a few of her 100 residents who needed backup power for portable oxygen.
The stranded train passengers spent more than 20 hours on the train after they stopped around 11 p.m. on Friday at a station near rural Prince, W.Va.
Brooke Richart, a 26-year-old teacher from New York City, said she was among the stuck passengers. To pass the time, she read half a book, talked to the people around her and took walks outside the train.
"We tried to walk up the side of the mountain to see if anyone could get cell service. We didn't have cell service the entire time we were down there," she said.
Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said the passengers were picked up by buses, which departed by 8:20 p.m. Saturday. The buses will travel to the stations along the original route, dropping off passengers along the way.
The stranded passengers on the train bound from New York to Chicago had lights, air conditioning and food the entire time, Kulm said. He wasn't aware of any injuries or health problems.