HURRICANE IRENE

Hurricane Irene: Thousands remain without power after Irene

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Utility companies are making progress toward restoring customer’s access to power after Hurricane Irene had knocked out electricity for thousands of homes and businesses in the Washington region with high winds and rain. For customers left in the dark by the storm, it couldn't come fast enough.

SMECO said power has been restored to nearly 72,000 of its more than 108,000 customers who were without power on Sunday. The company said it is working to repair more than 200 broken utility poles.

Pepco, too, said power for 75 percent of its 220,000 customers who had been cut off after Irene swept across the region was restored by Monday night. It said it flew in crews from as far as Texas which “will continue to work around the clock until power is fully restored.” The company said they expect to have all power restored by Thursday.

BG&E reported Monday that some customers may not regain power until Saturday.

Hurricane Irene's endurance has resulted in billions of dollars in damage and is being blamed for 38 deaths nationwide – primarily from falling trees and drownings in fast moving flood waters.

On Yuma Street, Don Lewis had trees fall on both sides, though neither hit his house early Sunday morning:

"We were in out in the living room and it sounded like a bolt of thunder when took the lines and transformers down,” he said

Residents are coping in the dark but see light at the end of the tunnel. “I would imagine it will be either today or tomorrow,” said Jim Murphy.

The outages early Monday were spread across northern Virginia, the Delmarva Peninsula and central and southern Maryland.

A few blocks away, Fred and Ruth Perna have been without power for 36 hours. They sat and talked by candlelight outside their Northwest home Monday night. Trying to see the upside, they called the situation “kind of romantic.”

Pepco crews haven't yet touched a big tree that toppled over in the storm and brought down lines, knocking out power on their street. The Pernas hope that by the

In Montgomery County, Silver Spring was hardest hit by the storm’s force. Marc Muething is frustrated without electricity.

“No TV... no internet… no telephone.. I can't cook, I'm living out of a cooler with my mother,” he said.

On Hereford Street in Silver Spring, Cindy Bowman, her husband, her sister and her two kids are desperately waiting for the power to come back.

“Trying to get my kids ready for school this morning was no fun with no shower, no food was quite interesting,” Bowman said. “It's been 36 hours and we keep getting the runaround every time we call the emergency number and I just want that tree to go and the power to come back on.”

Utility crews say they are working 16-hour days to get power restored for all customers. Crews cut down the tree that fell on the power lines Monday evening.

On Monday evening, Pepco reported close to 50,000 customers without power, nearly half of them in Prince George's County and the rest in Montgomery County and D.C.

Dominion said more than 10,000 of its Northern Virginia customers were cut off.

BG&E said more than 90,000 of its customer in Anne Arundel County were in the dark, in addition to more than 20,000 in Prince George's County and close to 3,000 in Montgomery County.

Pepco says that 60 percent of their customers who lost power had it back within 24 hours. They expect to have everyone back online by Thursday evening.

Dominion said Monday that in Northern Virginia, where Irene made a lesser impact than in other areas of the Commonwealth, restoration will be complete by Tuesday.

They said that 90-95 percent of their customers statewide will have their power restored by Friday.

Pepco says that they have already restored power to more than 140,000 customers since the brunt of Irene passed through the D.C. area. At it's peak, 220,000 Pepco customers were in the dark.

BG&E said in a release Monday that it might take the rest of the week to get all of their customers back online. Restoring power to all BG&E customers may take until late Friday, and some isolated outages may not be resolved until Saturday. The utility is dealing with more than 5,000 reports of downed wires in their service area.

BG&E is bringing in 3,800 contract and external workers to speed up the restoration process.

The outages knocked out traffic lights throughout the region, causing traffic delays and confusion at intersections.

Michael and Edna Moore say they've never had such a long outage and are getting a little worried because Michael sometimes needs oxygen. The machine needs electricity and his oxygen bottle is empty.

There are utility crews fanned out across the region. This team was at work along Branch Avenue repairing several big broken power poles. The men say they're moving as fast as they can.

“Sixteen hour days get 8 hours of sleep and back at it again,” said Richard Jackson.

In Ocean City they’re grateful Irene spared the vacation spot its strongest punch. But they worry about the storm killing two big summer weekends.

“It's a huge loss especially during the weekend for Ocean City all the businesses down here,” said Kira Mayton. “It really hurt business and it was already down this summer."

On the verge of labor day, some fear problems from the storm at home could prompt people who planned to come to the beach next weekend to stay put instead.

“Everybody is cleaning their own home so they won't take another weekend for the beach,” said Ovi Bernatchi, Sunsation manager. “They will have to clean up to make repairs they will not want to make a trip.”

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