Washington: Violent storms that swept the eastern US left at least 12 people dead, authorities said today, while three million people were without power on one of the hottest days on record.

Six people were reported killed in Virginia, including a 90-year-old woman asleep in bed when a tree slammed into her home. Two young cousins in New Jersey were killed when a tree fell on their tent while camping. Two were killed in Maryland, one in Ohio and one in Washington, DC.

Washington and other areas were still largely without power and air conditioning as temperatures were expected to reach above 40 degrees Celsius across the region.

People chose to escape the heat in shopping malls or hotels. Drivers navigated through intersections left unguided by dead traffic lights. In suburban Washington, emergency call centers were without power and residents were told to go to police or fire stations if they needed help.

Others were asked to conserve water. Cell phone coverage was spotty. Yesterday, the nation's capital reached 40 degrees Celsius topping a record of 38 degrees Celsius set in 1934.

As of today, Pepco was reporting 406,000 power outages in the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland.

"We have more than half our system down," said Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel. "This is definitely going to be a multi-day outage."

Amtrak suspended its service from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia, at least until mid-morning.

High winds also toppled three cargo trucks on Interstate 75 in Ohio.


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