Blackouts continue in Mid-Atlantic as D.C. risks spending July 4 in the dark

Washington, D.C., July 2, 2012 — The storms that struck from Chicago to the East Coast over the weekend ending July 1 have utilities calling out for support from their counterparts deep in the Midwest as crews struggle to repair grid damage.

The storm that meteorologists are calling a “derecho” brought winds in excess of 70 miles per hour that uprooted trees and tore off limbs, which brought down numerous power lines and broke crossarms and poles.

Severe weather is blamed in the deaths of at least 17 people, and in some areas 100-degree temperatures threaten those who are vulnerable to high temperatures.

In Maryland, one of several states now declared an official disaster area, Gov. Martin O’Malley vowed to hold utilities responsible until power is restored.

“No one will have his boot further up PEPCO‘s and BGE’s backsides than I will,” O’Malley said.

PEPCO reported 443,000 customers without power initially, but said July 1 that all of its high-voltage transmission lines were energized and all substations were back online.

Mutual assistance crews arrived July 2 from as far away as Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia and Missouri to help with the restoration work, according to PEPCO.

In the Chicago area, Commonwealth Edison Co. said damage is extensive in many of Chicago’s suburbs, particularly in Addison where more than an inch inches of rain fell in less than half an hour. More than 3,400 lightning strikes, 90 mile-per-hour winds and hail were recorded as well.

ComEd reported outages for more than 250,000 customers before restoring power July 1 to some 96,000.

In Ohio, American Electric Power initially reported 700,000 Ohio homes without electricity. President Barack Obama has declared the state a disaster area.

As of July 1, AEP crews were still working to restore power to 465,000 people in Virginia and West Virginia, 416,000 in Ohio, 52,000 in Indiana and 14,000 in Kentucky.

Dominion Virginia Power said it still had over 270,000 customers without electricity in its Virginia and North Carolina service areas, but added it had restored power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.

FirstEnergy of Ohio said July 1 it had 314,000 customers out in its five-state service area of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. That was down from about the 566,000 affected by the storms.

Baltimore Gas & Electric had about 233,000 customers out, down from about 600,000 homes and businesses affected.

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