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Heat Waves, Power Outages, Wildfires: The Misery Continues

Jul 5, 2012
Originally published on July 5, 2012 6:23 pm

First, some good news:

-- The Waldo Canyon fire in and around Colorado Springs is "90 percent contained" and officials expect it will be "fully contained by Friday," The Denver Post reports. That blaze, which began June 23, has destroyed about 350 homes and caused at least two fatalities.

-- Power companies continue to bring more customers back on line in states from Ohio east to Virginia as they work to repair power lines brought down by last Friday's powerful derecho. The storm brought high winds, rain and lightning across a huge swatch of the nation, from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic.

Now, the not-so-good news:

-- More than 500,000 customers still don't have power in the states pummeled by Friday's storm, The Associated Press reports. In West Virginia alone, about 250,000 are without electricity, says The Charleston Gazette.

-- The heatwave that has made life even more miserable for those without power continues. Wunderground.com lists "excessive heat" warnings or watches for derecho-affected states including Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania. There are heat advisories for some of the other affected states, including Virginia and West Virginia.

-- Though there's been progress fighting the Waldo Canyon blaze, "wildfires in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado sent haze and smoke across Colorado's Front Range, prompting air-quality health advisories as firefighters warned of growing fires in sparsely populated areas," The Associated Press writes.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From Ohio to North Carolina to New Jersey, almost a half-million people are still without electricity after last week's massive storm. Many of them are in West Virginia, where more than 240,000 customers are in the dark after almost six days. West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Jessica Lilly reports on why it's taking so long to get the lights back on.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER)

JESSICA LILLY, BYLINE: Crews in West Virginia have worked almost nonstop, even using helicopters like this one to survey the damage. Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye says this storm uprooted and broke massive trees in difficult-to-get-to places.

PHIL MOYE: It's a heavily forested area. It's a mountainous area. And so getting from one place to another is not as simple as driving down a paved road and going to a pole beside the road. We very often have to go out into the country, along dirt roads, along roads that really don't even exist anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR OPENING)

LILLY: At this shelter this morning in Princeton, just a few people were here. Some are sitting in chairs, others cots. Mary Deal has camped out at this place since Sunday, but she was fed up and leaving today even though her home doesn't have power yet.

MARY DEAL: In there with a bunch of people and there's nothing to do and nowheres to go and it's not really that they're mad at each other. It's just they're cramped in one spot and they have nothing to do.

LILLY: Deal says she's looking forward to getting back to her empty, quiet trailer and she hopes the power might just return tomorrow.

For NPR News, I'm Jessica Lilly in Athens, West Virginia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.