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Who's in town, who's not as Washington recovers, slowly, from big storm

Many top government officials had left Washington in time to avoid Friday night's storm – and the subsequent (and lingering) power outage. More than 2 million on the East Coast sweltered without air conditioning for a third day.

By Staff writer / July 2, 2012

An American beech tree lies on Capitol Hill grounds in Washington, Saturday, June 30, in front of the Supreme Court, background, after a powerful storm swept across the Washington region late Friday.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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Washington

Many top federal officials are out of town as Washington recovers – slowly – from a severe storm Friday night that has left more than 2 million utility customers on the East Coast sweltering without air conditioning in record heat for a third day.

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As a violent windstorm pounded the Washington area late Friday, members of Congress had already left town for their July 4 recess. The US Supreme Court had delivered its controversial health-care reform decision and closed shop for the summer. Saturday morning, as utilities assessed storm damage, Marine One took off from the White House South Lawn, taking President Obama to Camp David atop a mountain in Maryland, where his family had already begun a brief summer vacation. 

GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney is also far from the capital, vacationing with his family in New Hampshire.

IN PICTURES: Extreme weather 2012 

It is not just officials who had fled the city for the Fourth of July week. Some influential journalists had decamped for the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. Mike Allen of Politico described the gathering this morning in his Playbook memo as “summer camp for D.C. and the Upper East Side: an intellectual utopia where David Brooks is God….”

The pace of recovery from the storm is drawing widespread criticism, from officials such as the governors of Maryland and Virginia as well as from those checking utility company progress reports at 2 a.m. by flashlight in homes where the interior temperature had been pushing triple digits. The US Department of Energy says 2.2 million utility customers remained without power as of 2 p.m. EDT Monday in the 10 states and District of Columbia that suffered storm damage. That is down from a peak of 4.1 million power-deprived customers. The largest of the outages are in Ohio (510,922 customer outages), West Virginia (457,856), Maryland (428,342), and Virginia (454,244), the Energy Department says. The District of Columbia is reporting 41,123 customers without power.   

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