SILVER SPRING, Md. — Across the eastern U.S., people are struggling through a third day of sweltering heat with no electricity. Their groceries are long gone, either used up in weekend cookouts or left to spoil in useless refrigerators. The usual frozen treats people turn to on a hot summer day have melted away.

The basics of daily life are difficult: Washing machines won't work without electricity, leading to some creative wardrobes. Bottled water has gone from luxury to necessity for people whose underground wells aren't pumping.

Storms that swept across the area late Friday left 22 people dead, and nearly 1.8 million people remained without power Monday evening. Utility companies say it could be days before the lights are on again.

`THEY NEED HELP'

Not a whole lot was functioning at the Springvale Terrace nursing home and senior center in Silver Spring: No air conditioning, no cable, no automatic doors for elderly residents using walkers who otherwise struggle to navigate them.

Window air-conditioner units were brought in to cool rooms, and director Antonio Hill and his staff had to empty spoiling food from refrigerators and freezers in nursing units – sometimes over the loud objections of residents who insisted their melting ice cream was still good.

Generators provided electricity in common rooms, where TVs showed movies on old VHS tapes, including the 1932 classic "Grand Hotel."

Residents coped as best they could. Ninety-three-year-old Margaret Foster and 95-year-old Helen Ofsharick passed the time outside.

"You wouldn't want to live this way more than a day or so," Foster said. "There are sick people here, or people who don't think too well. They need help."

FIRST TO GO DOWN, LAST TO COME BACK

Great Falls is one of the wealthiest areas in the nation, in Virginia just outside Washington, with mansions spread across secluded, wooded lots. But because the city is so sparsely populated, it's not a top priority for crews trying to get as many people back online as quickly as possible.

"Great Falls always seems to be the first to go down and the last one to come back up," said resident Patrick Muir, a patent attorney who was raiding water bottles from his powerless office to supply his home, which is on a well that was not operating. His 8-year-old daughter Mary accompanied him, speaking hopefully of a beach trip to escape the heat. Dad said it was under consideration.

Most of the community remained without power Monday.

A Safeway supermarket tried to remain open with a limited power supply and handed out free bags of dry ice. But the air inside was stale. Shopping carts with spoiled food, buzzing with flies, sat outside the store.

PLAYING WITH FLASHLIGHTS

When the storms first rolled through Ohio on Friday, Natalie Driscoll's electricity went out. It came back a few hours later, only to be knocked out again Sunday when another storm swept through.

"My 2-year-old thought it was kind of fun at first," said Driscoll, the mother of two children. "She got to play with the new flashlights" that the family bought after the first outage.

Mom wasn't so amused. She packed her bags and took the children from their Springfield, Ohio, home to stay with her parents in Upper Sandusky, about two hours away. Driscoll also loaded two coolers with food, hoping to save it from certain spoilage in the family's freezer and refrigerator. Her husband stayed behind at their home.

"It looked like somebody pulled a Christmas tree down and laid it in our yard, instead of putting it by the curb," said Driscoll, 28. "Thankfully, nothing hit our house."

`I AM NOT A SUMMER PERSON'

After Hugh Neill and his wife, Diana, lost power late Friday, they spent the night at home before deciding against a hot and sticky weekend in Washington without electricity.

"I am not a summer person," said Diana.

"She is not a summer person, echoed Hugh, 77 and retired.

So they got rid of all their food – "total refrigerator, total freezer, total everything," Diana explained – and booked a hotel room in nearby Crystal City, Va. They've eaten their meals out and have made periodic trips home to gather belongings. The only hiccup came when they had to rent a car because Diana's car, the one with air conditioning, is still in the shop.

Although their electricity appeared to have been restored by Monday afternoon, the couple was not taking any chances and planned another night at their hotel.

LABYRINTH

Author Thompson, a retired truck driver, said he's had to navigate a labyrinth of roads to get patients to the Baltimore VA Medical Center. He's a volunteer who drives people to their appointments.

"It's been a royal pain today because going out, trying to pick patients up, there are roads closed, lights out, trees still down all over the place. You have to back track all over the place just to pick people up," said Thompson, 54.

His electricity was back on by Saturday night, so he had to cope without air conditioning for only about 24 hours. How did he do it?

"Sweat, that's basically it," Thompson said. A neighbor borrowed a generator and ran power cords to nearby houses so folks in the neighborhood could run their refrigerators and save their groceries.

IS IT BACK YET?

Leo Welsh repeatedly dialed the number to his Columbus, Ohio, home on Monday, hoping to hear the sweet sound of an answering machine indicating his electricity had been restored. By lunchtime, he resigned himself to the fact there was no answer.

"Getting worked up about it is not going to make the power come on any sooner," said Welsh, 33, a nursing home administrator.

The first outage at his Columbus home, following winds of up to 80 mph on Friday, lasted only about 20 hours while other Ohio residents were told they might be in the dark for days. The second round of storms Sunday knocked out the lights throughout his neighborhood, including the ones that had remained on at the house next door, and Welsh figured it must be his turn to wait. So he packed the food from his refrigerator and the food his mother-in-law had brought over when her power went out, carted it to the extra refrigerator at his brother's place in Grandview and patiently addressed his 3-year-old son's questions about when someone might be coming by to fix the TV.

IN SEARCH OF WI-FI

University of Maryland Latin American Studies Professor Sandra Cypess traveled four miles with her laptop computer from her dark Potomac, Md., home to a Panera Bread store in Rockville to find the restaurant's power on, but its Wi-Fi down. Cypess said she'd have to find another place to do her work, annotating some book chapters.

"Yesterday we had to go to Virginia, to a friend who had just gotten his power back, and we brought some off our frozen food that still hadn't spoiled. He took us in and we used the internet and worked there for a while."

She said her tree-filled neighborhood often loses power during storms.

"It's not a one-time occurrence," she said. "Winter storms, summer storms, it happens."

___

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington; Dan Sewell in Cincinnati; Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; and David Dishneau in Rockville, Md., contributed to this report.

Loading Slideshow...
  • An American beech tree lies on Capitol Hill grounds in Washington, Saturday, June 30, 2012, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, background, after a powerful storms swept across the eastern U.S. Friday evening. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

  • Frances Lukens looks at the tangle of boards and tree limbs piercing her living room ceiling in Lynchburg, Va. on Saturday, June 30, 2012 after a huge oak tree fell directly on the house during a storm the previous night. (AP Photo/The News & Advance, Parker Michels-Boyce)

  • In this Friday, June 29, 2012 photo, a car sits damaged from where a brick wall fell on it from the second story of a store in Columbus Grove, Ohio. The bricks fell on and crushed two vehicles as strong winds tore through the region Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/The Lima News, Jay Sowers)

  • A tree sitting atop a vehicle offers free firewood in Falls Church, Va., Monday, July, 2, 2012, as cleanup continued after Friday's storm, Around 2 million utility customers are without electricity across a swath of states along the East Coast and as far west as Illinois as the area recovers from a round of summer storms that has also caused at least 17 deaths. (AP Photo/Karen Mahabir)

  • A utility pole is cracked in half by a downed tree on a residential street in Arlington, Va., Sunday, July 1, 2012. Severe storms swept through the area leaving many homes and businesses without electricity. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

  • Marcia McCloud (right) and her great-granddaughter Makayla Milton, find some comfort together at the Red Cross cooling shelter at Sandusky Middle School in Lynchburg, Va., July 1, 2012. Milton was visiting her great-grandmother Friday when the storm hit and the two were forced to find other shelter. McCloud explained, "It's like a vacation, vacation away from home!" (AP Photo/The News & Advance, Parker Michels-Boyce)

  • Joe Tiago

    Joe Tiago takes pictures of a downed utility pole and electric transformer on Old Keene Mill Road, Sunday, July 1, 2012 in Springfield Va. A severe storm late Friday knocked out power to approximately one million residents, traffic signals and businesses in the region. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Residents of the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, navigate underneath a downed tree, Sunday, July 1, 2012. A severe storm late Friday, June 29th knocked out power to approximately one million residents, traffic signals and businesses in the region. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • A worker uses a chainsaw to clear a tree that fell onto the 14th fairway at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, June 30, 2012, after a strong storm blew through overnight. The AT&T National golf tournament was postponed to allow workers to clear the course. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • A van and boat sit crushed by fallen trees, as crews work to restore power Saturday, June, 30, 2012, in Northfield, N.J. Severe thunderstorms packing heavy rain, lightning and strong winds that gusted up to 70 mph hit the state Saturday, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and killing at least two. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

  • Using crutches, Cooper Scott talks about the car where he and his mother were trapped in Lynchburg, Va. Saturday, June 30, 2012 after a large oak tree fell on them during the storm the night before. Both spent most of the night in the hospital but were back at home by Saturday morning. (AP Photo/The News & Advance, Parker Michels-Boyce)

  • Marilyn Golias, right, looks at the remains of a utility pole which fell across the street from her house in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, June 30, 2012. Millions across the mid-Atlantic region sweltered Saturday in the aftermath of violent storms that pummeled the eastern U.S. with high winds and downed trees, killing at least 13 people and leaving 3 million without power during a triple-digit heat wave. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

  • Lighting flashes Saturday morning, June, 30, 2012 in Hebron Md.. Violent storms swept across the eastern U.S., killing at least nine people and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands on a day that temperatures across the region are expected to reach triple-digits. (AP photo by Salisbury Daily Times, Kristin Roberts)

  • Cesar de Jesus,

    Cesar de Jesus, 4, from Riverdale, Md., play peek-a-boo from under a Red Cross blanket at a Red Cross shelter at Northwestern High School gym Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Hyattsville, Md. near Washington. Violent evening storms following a day of triple-digit temperatures wiped out power to more than 2 million people across the eastern United States. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

  • In this photo taken Friday, June 29, 2012 shows a trampoline smashed into the side of the garage in Lima, Ohio. Violent storms swept across the eastern U.S., killing at least 10 people and knocking out power to millions of people on a day that temperatures across the region are expected to reach triple-digits. The storms were blamed for the deaths of six people in Virginia; two in New Jersey; one in Ohio; and another in Maryland. (AP Photo/The Lima News, Gretchen White)

  • Larry Pellino

    Larry Pellino repairs the site of the AIDS Memorial Quilt display damaged by a powerful storm that swept across the Washington region Friday, at the National Mall in Washington Saturday, June 30, 2012. Organizers of the quilt display are planning to put the exhibit back on Sunday. Violent storms swept across the eastern U.S., killing at least nine people and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands on a day that temperatures across the region are expected to reach triple-digits. Officials said about 500,000 people were without power in West Virginia. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

  • A tree lies on top of a storage building at the home Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Charleston, W.Va. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

  • A passing storm brought a halt to rides Friday, June 29, 2012 at the 26th annual Italian-American Festival being held this weekend at the Stark County Fairgrounds in Canton, Ohio. A wave of violent storms sweeping through the mid-Atlantic following a day of record-setting heat in Washington, D.C., has knocked out power to nearly 2 million people. The storms converged Friday night on Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency after more than 500,000 customers in 27 counties were left without electricity. (AP Photo/The Repository, Bob Rossiter)

  • A tree toppled by severe storms sits atop a car in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood on Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Washington. More than two million people across the eastern U.S. lost power after violent storms and two people died, including a 90-year-old woman asleep in bed when a tree slammed into her home, a police spokeswoman said Saturday. (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko)

  • Clouds roll over Mundelein, Ill., as a storm moves through the area Friday, June 29, 2012.(AP photo/Daily Herald, Steve Lundy)

  • Raw Video: Storms Kill 3 in North Carolina

    Authorities say three people were killed when a sudden storm struck in eastern North Carolina, damaging homes and uprooting trees.