WASHINGTON — Thousands of customers were without electricity Thursday in the nation's capital as workers cleaned up from storms that left some areas looking "like a war zone," weather officials said.
About 75,000 homes and businesses remained without power in Washington and its suburbs from storms that struck with little warning Wednesday, hurling winds of more than 60 m.p.h. that one utility official said downed more than 800 power lines.
"It's like we're rebuilding the electrical distribution system all over again," Potomac Electric Power Co. spokesman Tom Welle said. "This is the worst storm in the company's 93-year history."
The power outage closed schools in the capital and its suburbs and wreaked havoc on morning commuter traffic as uprooted trees blocked intersections and traffic signals failed to work.
"Sections of streets are closed off," Welle said. "It's like a war zone out there."
Welle said 300 crews, some from power companies out of state, were working to fix electrical wires. It could take up to three days before power is fully restored, he said.
Thunderstorm watches were in effect Thursday in a band from much of Georgia and the western and central Carolinas through eastern and central Virginia, the District of Columbia, eastern and central Maryland, Delaware, southeast Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
Thunderstorm winds gusted to 80 m.p.h. in parts of South Carolina. Trees and power lines were blown down at Seneca and Greenville and Cherokee counties. Trees were uprooted near Polkville, N.C., and Bostwick, Oglethorpe and Oconee County, Ga.
A commercial chicken house was blown away near Macedonia, Ga. It was scheduled to open for business next week.