Americans’ ‘amazing’ feats against storm and heat

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NEW: Nearly 700,000 remained without power Wednesday night

NEW: Death toll from storms, aftermath now at 22

Nearly 800,000 people without power Wednesday afternoon

"Amazing what you can do when you have to," a West Virginia resident says

CNN  — 

Jeanne Campbell, who has broken bones in her legs, was sitting in her Lewisburg, West Virginia, home when a massive storm barreled through late last week and a tree came crashing through her roof.

“I just heard the thump on the house and saw the bricks flying, and I was afraid it was gonna come on down through the ceiling,” she told CNN on Wednesday.

She managed to get up and move to the center of the house. “Amazing what you can do when you have to,” she said.

The tree’s impact left a large, visible crack through her ceiling.

Now, days later, Campbell sits on her porch in a wheelchair, surviving record heat with no power and a quickly dwindling supply of food.

Her husband managed to get some staples such as bread. “There was no lunch meat or anything that we found in the stores, but there is always peanut butter,” she told CNN with a smile.

“We’re tough, we’ll make it. West Virginians – we can make it.”

The lack of power and limited food supply have put her in the same boat as millions of others this week.

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As of Wednesday night, 699,000 customers scattered across 11 states had no electricity, down from about 1.8 million late Monday – and from a peak of 4 million over the weekend. A household is considered one customer, so the actual number of people without power is higher.

Pepco power company, which serves the D.C. metro area, said it expected to restore power by the end of Wednesday to 90% of its customers who lost electricity.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said about 300,000 customers were without power Wednesday morning. That number appeared to have dropped to 238,000 by evening.

Parts of his state as well as South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska were under heat advisory warnings.

Excessive heat warnings were in place for portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. The National Weather Service said those areas would be scorched with temperatures near or above triple digits.

As Americans celebrated Independence Day, many in the affected regions are focused on finding ways to get by until power can finally be restored.

Eddie Harmon and his family in South Charleston, West Virginia, have spent nights sleeping in a car just to avoid the oppressive heat inside their home. One of his daughters has gone to stay with her grandmother, who has a generator.

He walked to visit some neighbors to make sure they’re OK, he said in an iReport.

Getting around is tough because many gas stations have run out of supplies. People are running out of cash as well and the ATMs have run out, he said.

Ironically, a previous power outage paid off, he said. His deep-freeze freezer had 3 inches of solid ice at the bottom because of a power outage two winters ago – and that helped keep some chicken cold enough to be safe for cooking.

“I actually had cold Corn Flakes last night before I went to bed because I had milk that was still good,” he said in a YouTube video Tuesday.

Tomblin said Wednesday that while food is in short supply, “we’ve made a lot of progress” since the storm.

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The Democrat praised federal officials for their assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency “has responded fantastically,” providing generators and ice within hours of the state’s request, he said.

Jeanne Campbell was among those who got power back and then lost it again – meaning more wasted money and more wasted food.

And with the large tree that shaded her house now down, she can’t spend much time indoors. “With a tin roof, it’s gonna get even hotter now,” she said.

But, she added with a smile, she can deal with the inconveniences. “I’m not worried.”

David McMann, in Charleston, West Virginia, has paid a price for the storm and lack of power at his home. He raises koi fish and lost three as a result. “It was hard to watch them die, and stand by knowing I had done all I could do.” One of the fish “was 15 years old and had become almost a friend, if that is possible,” he said in an iReport.

“This has been an expensive storm for us in more ways than one. This was to have been our vacation. Our traveling has been put off, for we do not have any idea when the power will be restored. I am 63 years old and have been through hurricanes in Virginia and Florida. I have never experienced the wrath of nature any stronger than what blew through these mountains on Friday evening.”

While some of the most harrowing tales come from West Virginia, people throughout much of the Northeast have been struggling as well.

Mark Cohen sent iReport a video of his destroyed yard and neighborhood in Mays Landing, New Jersey, showing downed trees, smashed cars and damage to his home. “We would have been better off with a tornado,” he said.

Cohen, his daughter and his girlfriend have been sleeping in the basement to stay cool.

Despite damage to his home, Cohen is looking at the bigger picture. “When you see this around you – I’m not an emotional guy – you quickly think, ‘Wow this is nothing. It could have been so much worse,’ ” he said.

“You think about the people around the country losing their houses and you can’t complain. It’s inconvenient, but big picture, we’re fine.”

The heat-driven storm that started Friday has resulted in at least 22 deaths from Ohio to New Jersey, 13 of them in Virginia. Another three people in North Carolina died in a second round of storms Sunday.

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CNN’s Maria White, Jake Carpenter and Chandler Friedman contributed to this report.