A deadly storm, fueled by extreme heat and humidity, left Maryland in a state of emergency that continued Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power, with some residents expected to remain in the dark over the next week.
The severity of the Friday-night storm — being blamed for at least two deaths in Maryland and 10 others around the region — caught state authorities off guard, and officials sought help from Southern states to restore power. In the Baltimore region alone, roughly 306,000 remained without power as of 10 a.m. Sunday.
"We had a very historic event [Friday] night, with a front that ripped across Maryland — high, high winds … coming at a time where we are experiencing very high temperatures," Gov. Martin O'Malley said Saturday in a conference call with members of his Cabinet.
The two-term Democrat said he took a call from President Barack Obama, who was at Camp David, to make sure Maryland was receiving the federal assistance needed.
O'Malley and his counterparts in Washington, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia declared statewide emergencies because of the damage, which stretched 500 miles. About 3.9 million homes and businesses around the region lost power.
Kevin Alan Obrien, 25, of Edgewater was pronounced dead about 11:25 p.m. after a tree fell on his 2009 Ford Escape while he was traveling east in the 400 block of Harwood Road, Anne Arundel County police said. Obrien's two passengers were taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center with minor injuries.
A second death was reported in Montgomery County, where a 71-year-old Silver Spring woman's body was found by fire personnel who were responding to a downed tree on Grant Avenue, according to Montgomery County Police. A large maple tree fell and crashed through the roof sometime overnight, police said.
And a search was under way for one person after a boat capsized early Saturday about 15 nautical miles south of Annapolis, near Breezy Point. Four people were rescued about 3:30 a.m., including two who were saved by a crew member on a fishing boat and two found by the Coast Guard.
Frances B. Phillips, deputy secretary for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said because of the extreme heat, residents should look out for one another and take precautions to stay healthy, such as drinking plenty of water.
The high temperature Sunday is expected to be 98 degrees, with a possibility of thunderstorms. Temperatures are expected in the 90s for most of the week. Baltimore city's health department said Sunday afternoon that it has extended the Code Red Heat Alert through Tuesday, meaning cooling centers will be open and distributing water.
Those without medical emergencies should go to public places, such as cooling centers, rather than emergency rooms, Phillips said. Cooling centers were opened Saturday across Maryland, including 15 in the city. The city also began to distribute ice Saturday night at four sites.
Norris Witherspoon, 38, of Highlandtown stopped by the Southeast Community Action Center to beat the heat, get a cold bottle of water and charge his smartphone. He had been without power since 10 p.m. Friday and took his 57-year-old mother to his sister's house in Owings Mills to stay cool.
"You might as well sleep outside," Witherspoon said.
Witherspoon said he was worried about a couple of hundred dollars' worth of food from his refrigerator he'd have to throw out if his power wasn't restored soon.
State utilities called in crews from Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and other Southern states to help repair the downed power lines, said Rob Gould, spokesman for Baltimore Gas and Electric.
"This is going to be a very extended restoration," extending late into the coming week, Gould said. "What we're really finding is damage that is the magnitude of a hurricane."
By comparison, 740,000 people were without power because of damage caused by Hurricane Irene last year.
Melissa Kitner-Triolo stretched an orange electric cord across Tunbridge Road in Homeland from her neighbor's house to keep her refrigerator powered. She had been watching television with her 15-year-old daughter, Eliza Triolo, Friday night when the power went out.
"I think it was one of the worst storms we had, as far as how quickly it came up," Kitner-Triolo said. "It was the wind more than anything. At first, you didn't hear the rain so much. It was like a microburst. It was pretty terrifying."