The Two-Way
7:16 am
Tue July 3, 2012

Power's Still Out For Nearly 2 Million, And Intense Heat Continues

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 3:42 pm

As the day gets started, about 1.8 million homes and businesses in states stretching from Indiana east through the mid-Atlantic are still without power because of the enormous damage caused by Friday's derecho. That's the huge wall of severe storms that swept across towns and cities from Indiana east to the Atlantic coast.

What's worse, the intense heat that has blanketed much of the nation continues, with temperatures in the 90s and humidity that makes things feel even hotter.

The National Weather Service has issued heat warnings or advisories for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia. But even where there aren't warnings — in cities such as Richmond, Va., Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., it's going to be hot and many folks still don't have power.

As The Washington Post says, the nation's capital "approached an unhappy Fourth of July as frustration grew Monday over the pace of power restoration, the forecast warned of more high temperatures and storms, and thousands spent a third miserable day without air conditioning."

More ominously, The Associated Press says that "officials feared the death toll, already at 22, could climb because of the heat and widespread use of generators, which emit fumes that can be dangerous in enclosed spaces."

Reports from places still suffering are consistent in their misery:

-- "Excessive heat warning remains in effect. ... Some people in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio remain without power due to recent severe thunderstorms." (Indiana's FortWayne.com)

-- "For 140,000 without power, it's Day 5 and waiting." (Ohio's The Columbus Dispatch)

-- In West Virginia, "Gov. Tomblin declares state of emergency." (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)

-- "Crews battle heat while restoring power." (The Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Va.)

-- For Dominion Power in Virginia, Repairs are 'hand-to-hand combat.' (WAMU)

-- "A summer heat wave expected to last through the weekend is now blamed for seven deaths across Maryland." (The Baltimore Sun)

Update at 3:40 p.m. ET. Why Don't We Put More Lines Underground?

NPR's Martin Kaste reminds us that back in February he reported for All Thing Considered about the issue of whether more power lines should be buried to prevent the kinds of storm-related damage that occurred this past week. But as he concluded:

"The bottom line is — nobody knows the bottom line. Nobody's gone past the cost side of the cost-benefit analysis. Even if cities like Seattle had the money for undergrounding, there's no way to know if it's a good investment, and they have little incentive to change how things are done."

This week, The Washington Post looked at whether utilities around the nation's capital could bury more or all of their lines and wrote that:

"Changing the game, experts agree, would be somewhere between moderately and astoundingly expensive and might create nearly as many reliability issues as it solves."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.