By Donna Leinwand Leger and Anthony DeBarros, USA TODAY
PURCELLVILLE, Va. - With no power at his home, Morgan Smith has been sleeping on the floor where he works at Market Street Coffee. On Monday morning, the barista was joined by people who crowded into the café- one of the few places in this rural corner of Loudoun County with power and free, working Wi-Fi - to charge cellphones and work on their laptops.
Among them was Anna Novaes of nearby Lovettsville, who had spent the night in her basement and showered at a gym. "We've had to be creative," she said.
As record heat cooked states from Indiana to Maryland and more than 2 million people were still without power after weekend storms, the tired, the sleepless and the sweaty yearning for some cool found refuge in odd spots.
Nearly 2.7 million people in 11 states still lack power after a ferocious fast-moving storm, called a "derecho" for its straight-line winds, struck Friday. Authorities say 17 people died, many because of falling trees, as the storms traveled west to east. Power companies say full restoration will take until the end of the week.
The power failures complicated the Monday morning commute as drivers navigated around downed trees and did the four-way stop dance at knocked-out traffic lights. Adding to the aggravation, temperatures topped 100 in the South and hovered in the upper 90s elsewhere.
At The Vine Church in Dunn Loring, Va., air conditioning was a sure-fire inducement for expanding the flock. A hand-painted 3-foot-by-6-foot sign on its lawn beckoned: "We have A/C. Join us."
Power had roared back at the United Methodist church around midday Saturday, pastor Todd Schlechty said. He and his family had taken refuge there after enduring the heat at their powerless house. "If we don't have power, I figured a lot of other people didn't have power," he said.
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So with assistance from his son, 8, and daughter, 12, Schlechty painted the sign and invited the community to partake of the cool air. And as things go in a modern-day ministry, Schlechty rigged extension cords and power strips in the sanctuary so people could recharge their electronics along with their spirits. "We had a lot of people come in with cellphones and tablets and laptops," he said.
Yesterday, in addition to worship services, the church organized a cookout and a kickball game. Families stayed until late in the evening, Schlechty said.
"The church is interested in being a help in the time of need," he said.
In the Washington metro area, the now powerless found themselves at loose ends as their BlackBerrys lost juice and their iPad batteries withered.
Simone Rathle of SimoneInk, the Bayou Bakery's public relations firm said that the snaking line of people who descended on the Arlington, Va., site, seconds after the doors opened wanted to know one thing - is the Wi-Fi working?
Bayou Bakery's chef David Guas on Monday offered two drinks designed to beat the heat, cold hibiscus ginger tea and Thai basil mint latté, at half-price along with the free Internet.
"They were slammed for hours," Rathle said.
Other restaurants in the area let customers know their power status on Twitter using the hashtag #WhatsOpen, Rathle said.
In Ohio, entire towns blacked out, but for a handful of emergency generators.
The hospital in Newark, a city of 40,000, got power Monday, but little else did. In nearby Granville, Denison University closed and sent students home. Still, the village's four-day July Fourth fair will go on as planned Wednesday, organizers said, powered by generators supplied by the amusement ride company.
The lack of air conditioning sent Terry Ann Grove, 71, on a trip down memory lane, but only for a moment.
"It makes me remember what life was like when I was a kid," Grove said as she bought ice, bread and peanut butter at one of a handful of open stores in Newark. "It's worse now because we're used to air-conditioning and McDonald's any time you want it."
Grove spent a day with a daughter who had power in Columbus, 45 minutes away, but she returned to be home even though power wasn't expected until this weekend. "That's what porches are for, I guess," she said.
Lines for gasoline, which lasted as long as an hour on the weekend, were gone by Monday. A custom of treating broken traffic lights as a four-way stop sign had taken over. And while most businesses and nearly all homes were without power, pockets of all services could be found within a 5- or 10-mile drive.
"It's hard on the wallet," said Becky Latham, a fast-food worker who will lose several days' pay because her restaurant is closed. "Less money earned and more money spent. That's what the storm brought me."
Others say they feel trapped by the heat and lack of power.
Emma Patrick, 91, said she feels like she's living inside a giant booby trap. When the storm tore through her town of Beckley, W.Va., on Friday, it toppled a tree onto her roof, bringing with it a tangle of electrical wires.
"These electrical wires are all in my house, all in my roof, all over the doors," Patrick said. "I just don't know what to do. I am terrified to move around because the tree is through the roof and the wires are connected to it."
The power is out, but she doesn't know whether the wires dangling from the rafters are live. Meanwhile, her food is rotting and she says she hasn't eaten in two days.
"What do you do? I am a nervous wreck. I am terrified. What if I die here?" Patrick said.
To the power company, Patrick is one of thousands in precarious, powerless situations. Nearly 60% of Appalachian Power's customers are without electric service as a result of Friday night's storm.
"The electric company is saying, 'You just have to wait,' " she said.
To pass the time, Patrick, who has cancer, says she prays.
"I don't have anywhere to go. I can't see the news. I can only pray to God," she said. "I am praying and asking God, 'Please Lord, don't let this house burn up.' "
Contributing: Dennis Cauchon in Granville, Ohio, and Natalie DiBlasio in McLean, Va.