Six days after violent storms hit the eastern United States, the state of West Virginia is struggling to recover, with nearly a third of electricity customers still without power and new storms putting more people in the dark.
Electric companies said more than 566,600 homes and businesses were without power from Ohio to Virginia, leaving them without air conditioning amid a scorching heat wave.
West Virginia, with a population of about 1.9 million, was the hardest hit. Companies warned that some people could be without power for the rest of the week.
Huge trucks loaded with ice and bottled water roared through the picturesque West Virginia mountain resort town of Lewisburg to supply thousands of residents in the region who lacked power or water.
Plants that shut down during the initial power outages have resumed pumping but had not generated enough pressure to supply far-flung residents, Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester said.
Repair crews from as far away as Arkansas have set up a temporary campground on the town's outskirts, where an empty field was filled with dozens of electrical trucks.
Jerry Morehead said he and his crew had been working up to 18 hours a day. "We turned some people on today - did some good work," he said.
Katie Gwynn of Lewisburg said that until her power went back on Thursday (Friday NZT), one of her neighbours had kept her refrigerator running with his generator and extension cords for six days - and would not accept any payment.
"The conditions have been ripe for great difficulties, but people have pulled together," Manchester said, noting there had been no deaths or serious injuries in Lewisburg related to the storm.
The temperature in Charleston, the state's largest city, reached 34 degrees Celsius on Thursday and was expected to top 37C on Friday and Saturday before dropping down again on Monday, according to Accuweather.com.
Adding to the snarl and the strain on local infrastructure, tens of thousands of visitors streamed in to attend a professional golf tournament at the famed Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs near Lewisburg.
Thousands more were expected for weekend concerts at the resort featuring Rod Stewart and Jon Bon Jovi.
More power outages resulted from a fresh batch of damaging storms that pushed across southern West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina this morning.
BAD NEWS FOR MIDWEST FARMERS
The continued heat wave was bad news for Midwest farmers, with the corn crop suffering from drought in the middle of a crucial growth phase.
The US Drought Monitor showed an expanding area of abnormally dry and drought conditions in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri. Corn and soybean prices jumped to new highs this week as the heat scorched crops.
"It's not only abnormally dry, but now you have 100 degree (37.7C) heat combined with the ongoing drought and it's too much for the crop," Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said, adding that Washington, DC, could this weekend break its all-time record of 41C set in 1930.
The Midwest and East should start seeing more normal temperatures next week, when the extreme heat returns to the West and brings triple-digit temperatures to parts of Idaho, Utah, Washington and Oregon.
The temperature in Chicago hit a record 35C on Thursday, before dropping with the arrival of a thunderstorm in the early afternoon. Summer school was cancelled at 21 public school buildings without air conditioning.
Part of Columbus Drive near downtown was closed after the pavement buckled.
Around a ground-level fountain near downtown Chicago's Daley Plaza at lunchtime, more than a dozen people were resting their feet in the cool water.
"Any time you can cool off one part of your body, it helps," said Mary Moore, 56, of Chicago, who was dipping her feet in the fountain during a break from jury duty. She said she didn't mind the sunny weather. "I prefer it to the winter," she said.
The storms last Friday crossed the eastern United States with heavy rain, hail and winds reaching 129 kph, leaving more than four million homes and businesses without power. The storms and the record heat that followed have killed at least 23 people.
American Electric Power of Ohio said about 364,000 homes and businesses it serves remained without power in West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Ohio.
FirstEnergy of Ohio said it was working to restore power to more than 111,000 customers in West Virginia and Maryland. That was down from the initial 566,000 homes and businesses affected by the storms.
Illinois-based Exelon Corp said its Baltimore Gas and Electric unit still had about 43,800 customers out in Maryland.
Virginia power company Dominion Resources said about 21,000 customers were still without power in its Virginia and North Carolina service areas.
Washington, DC-based Pepco Holdings said it had about 15,100 customers without power in the District of Columbia and Maryland, and about 11,700 were out in New Jersey.