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Meanwhile, officials focused on the most vulnerable residents: children, the sick and the elderly.

In Charleston, W.Va., firefighters helped several people using walkers and wheelchairs get to emergency shelters. One of them, David Gunnoe, uses a wheelchair and had to spend the night in the community room of his apartment complex because the power — and his elevator — went out. Rescuers went up five floors to retrieve his medication.

Some sought refuge in shopping malls, movie theaters and other places where the air conditioning would be cranked up. Others simply tried to make the best of a bad situation.

In the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Dublin, Lori Schaffert said her household borrowed a generator from a friend and was alternating it between the refrigerator and freezer while using flashlights and battery-operated lanterns for light. Her 5-year-old daughter and a neighbor 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,” Ms. Schaffert said.

Some major online services also saw delays and disruptions.

Netflix, Instagram and Pinterest resorted to using Twitter and Facebook to update subscribers after violent storms across the East caused server outages for hours. Netflix and Pinterest restored service by Saturday afternoon.

Instagram used its Facebook fan page to communicate with users of its photo-sharing service. It posted a message on Saturday morning that blamed the electrical storm for the outage that sent its engineers scrambling to restore service.

Associated Press writers Vicki Smith in Morgantown, W.Va.; Larry O’Dell in Richmond; Pam Ramsey in Charleston, W.Va.; Jonathan Drew in Atlanta; and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.