July 6, 2012 / 3:11 PM / 6 years ago

West Virginia swelters amid new storms, prolonged outages

LEWISBURG, W.Va., July 6 (Reuters) - Weary West Virginians dumped rotting food from their refrigerators and tried to clear fallen trees from the roads on Friday as new storms prolonged the power outages that have already lasted a week.

The forecast called for more record-breaking heat and triple-digit temperatures across the Midwest and into the Eastern United States during the weekend, with heavy rains and severe storms in the upper Midwest, the National Weather Service said.

At least 406,000 people were without electricity on Friday in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Ohio, power companies said. New storms knocked out power to parts of West Virginia on Thursday, while other areas have been without electricity since violent storms hit a week ago.

The weather was blamed for two deaths in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Thursday. A man riding a motorcycle was killed in a crash blamed on the weather, and a woman died after being struck by a falling tree, said park spokeswoman Melissa Cobern.

Utility companies warned that some residents in the worst-hit areas could be without power and air conditioning until early next week.

Just north of Lewisburg, West Virginia, down winding Benedict Lane, huge fallen oaks and other trees covered roads in a neighborhood interspersed with thick woods and open fields.

The area has been without power for a week and residents were fed up. Without power to run the gas pumps, they struggled to find gasoline to run the generators.

“You can’t do anything. You couldn’t get gas for two days to run anything,” said Darius Snedegar, a retired 71-year-old truck driver, as he took a break from cutting his lawn. “It ain’t been good at all.”

Sawn tree limbs and other storm debris were stacked in his yard, and a chainsaw whined from a nearby house.

“I’ve seen some bad storms but nothing like that,” Snedegar said.

He said his house was spared major damage, but it might be Sunday or Monday before power was restored to the neighborhood of neat brick and frame houses and trailers.

Dollie Gabbert, 64, said she had just finished dumping food from her two refrigerators and two freezers.

She was worried about her husband Gene, a 79-year-old diabetic who is on oxygen for heart and lung ailments. Without power, the Gabberts have been using bags of ice to keep his insulin cold.

“We are having a time, having a time,” Dollie Gabbert said, a miniature flashlight in one hand.

She and her husband have been able to recharge the batteries for his oxygen pump from a neighbor’s generator and he has been sitting in their truck to run the air conditioning and feel more comfortable.

Unable to get the generator running on their mobile home, she opened the windows at night but closed them during the day to keep out the high heat.

“It’s very stuffy,” she said.

Public health officials warned that the sniffling heat could aggravate asthma and heart and lung problems. (Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York, Writing by Jane Sutton; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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