By Donna Leinwand Leger
Stifling heat will suffocate the nation from Indiana to Florida today, as millions of people from the Midwest to the East Coast struggle without power for a third straight day.
A heat wave that began last week will continue to drive temperatures into the 100s from Indianapolis to Atlanta through the Fourth of July holiday Wednesday.
Heat warnings have been issued for parts of Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio. In St. Louis, the National Weather Service warned of "dangerous heat" as temperatures climb to 106 today.
Already, the heat wave has "broken hundreds of daily records and quite a few all-time records," said Weather Service meteorologist Katie LaBelle.
Temperatures topped 109 in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky over the weekend. Meteorologists in Jacksonville said the combination of 100-degree temperatures and high humidity there made it feel like 118.
Power companies said late Sunday it could take up to a week to restore electricity to more than 3 million who lost power after a ferocious summer storm cut a swath of destruction Friday night across 11 states, killing 14 people, toppling trees, knocking out traffic lights and sending thousands of people to shelters and into community pools to escape the heat.
Some states declared emergencies and activated disaster-response agencies. Governors in New Jersey and Ohio called out the National Guard.
FirstEnergy said 560,000 of its customers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia lost electricity. The company predicted it would need a week to restore power to the hardest-hit areas, particularly in West Virginia.
Officials focused on the most vulnerable residents: children, the sick and the elderly.
In Washington, D.C., officials canceled summer school for today as they continued to assess storm damage.
In Ohio, National Guard troops mobilized to check neighborhoods for people needing help while residents without power gathered at malls, movie theaters and churches.
Extreme heat in Colorado hampered firefighters as they tackled a patchwork of wildfires across the state.
In Dublin, Ohio, Lori Schaffert used a borrowed generator to alternately power her refrigerator and freezer. "You come to appreciate the simple life a little more in these times," she said.