Washington, DC (written by Donna Leinwand Leger/USA Today) -- Stifling heat will suffocate the nation from Indiana to Florida on Monday, as millions of people from the Midwest to the East Coast struggle without power for a third straight day.
A heat wave that began last week will continue to drive temperatures into the 100s from Indianapolis to Atlanta through the Fourth of July holiday Wednesday.
Heat warnings have been issued for parts of Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio. In St. Louis, the National Weather Service warned of "dangerous heat" as temperatures climb to 106 Monday.
Already, the heat wave has "broken hundreds of daily records and quite a few all-time records," said Weather Service meteorologist Katie LaBelle.
Temperatures topped 109 in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky over the weekend. Meteorologists in Jacksonville said the combination of 100-degree temperatures and high humidity there made it feel like 118.
Power companies said late Sunday it could take up to a week to restore electricity to more than 3 million who lost power after a ferocious summer storm cut a swath of destruction Friday night across 11 states, killing 14 people, toppling trees, knocking out traffic lights, and sending thousands of people to shelters and into community pools to escape the heat.
Some states declared emergencies and activated disaster-response agencies. Governors in New Jersey and Ohio called out the National Guard. The Department of Energy reported Sunday afternoon that 2.6 million people still lacked power. About 596,000 were without power in Maryland; 642,000 in Virginia; 61,000 in Washington, D.C.; 74,000 in Indiana; 700,000 in Ohio; 510,000 in West Virginia; and 125,000 in New Jersey.
First Energy said 560,000 of its customers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia lost electricity. The company predicted it would need a week to restore power to the hardest hit areas, particularly in West Virginia, where the storm damaged more than 50 transmission lines and 70 substations.
Officials focused on the most vulnerable residents: children, the sick and the elderly.
In Washington, D.C., officials canceled summer school for Monday as they continued to assess storm damage. The city opened libraries and recreation centers and extended the hours at community pools to give residents without power respite from the heat. The city dispatched National Guard troops to powerless intersections to direct traffic and keep people away from debris and downed powerlines.
In Ohio, where an 80-mph wind collapsed a barn, killing a 70-year-old woman, National Guard troops mobilized to check neighborhoods for people needing help while residents without power gathered at malls, movie theaters and churches. At the Plains-Athens Community Church of the Nazarene in southeast Ohio, families on Sunday watched movies, played board games and cooled off with donated ice cream.
Maryland opened 74 cooling stations to help residents cope with the heat and was canvassing hospitals and nursing homes to ensure they have enough power to keep elderly and sick residents cool, Maryland Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ed McDonough said. The number of people without power is similar to power outages following hurricanes, he said.
"That's still an awful lot of people without power in the extreme heat we're having now," McDonough said. "It's still an event that's going to take days instead of hours. We didn't have the kind of warning you have with hurricane so they couldn't stage repair crews ahead of time."
In Virginia, where Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency, the storm knocked out the 9-1-1 system. O'Donnell said the storms caused the most widespread, non-hurricane-related power outage in that state's history. A wastewater treatment plant in Lynchburg lost power and discharged at least 250,000 gallons of water into the James River.
"This is not a one-day situation," McDonnell said. "It is a multi-day challenge."
John Swift who lost power at his home in a Richmond suburb toughed out the power outage without complaint. The heat, he said, was the "biggest nuisance."
"I've got a camp stove. I've got cold showers. I don't watch TV. It's not a big deal," said Swift, 60.
Extreme heat in Colorado hampered firefighters as they tackled a patchwork of wildfires across the state. At Pine Ridge, 13 miles east of Grand Junction in the Bookcliffs, fire authorities said hot, dry conditions with southwest wind heightened the potential for "extreme fire behavior, intensity and growth."
The fire, which began with a lightning strike on June 27, has burned nearly 13,000 acres. Firefighters struggled to contain a massive fire in Waldo Canyon, three miles west of Colorado Springs, which has destroyed 346 homes and threatens 20,000 more. The city has canceled Fourth of July fireworks.
"The city is currently in extreme fire danger due to lack of moisture, heat and wind," city officials said in a press release.
In Dublin, Ohio, Lori Schaffert used a borrowed generator to alternately power her refrigerator and freezer while her 5-year-old daughter and a friend played board games and helped her make pickles from their garden's cucumbers.
"You come to appreciate the simple life a little more in these times," she said.
Contributing: The Associated Press