WASHINGTON -- Eduardo Lerma, an aide to Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), made it to work Monday but only after walking down 17 flights of stairs.
He was among the tens of thousands of Washington, D.C., area residents contending with temperatures headed into the mid-90s -- and the prospect of no electricity (and no air conditioning) perhaps until the end of the week. In the wake of Friday night’s severe storms in the mid-Atlantic, almost 2 million people still were without power Monday morning, Associated Press reported.
Commuters making their way to work faced hundreds of intersections with non-working traffic signals, and scores of roads remained closed due to downed trees and power lines. Since Friday, at least 18 deaths have been blamed on severe weather in the region.
"It’s been pretty bad,’’ said Lerma, who’s climbed up and down eight times from his 17th floor Silver Spring, Md., condominium since the elevators stopped working. "Yesterday, I sat in my truck for about an hour just to charge my phone – and delay the inevitable climb.’’
But at least when he got to work, the air conditioning was working in his office. He said he was worried about seniors in his building. "I’m a young guy,’’ the 28-year-old said. "I can do the climb."
Some who still had power took in friends and neighbors. Paul Bledsoe, an Arlington, Va., resident, said he opened his basement to a family of three and their dog. He had electricity, but no cable or Internet service.
Public anger was building toward utility companies, including Pepco, which provides service to Washington, D.C., and to Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland. The utility has been criticized in the past for taking days to restore electricity in the wake of winter storms; utility officials said they were requesting help from as far away as Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida and Canada.
Fortunately for many, Monday morning rush hour was lighter than usual as many employers allowed workers to take unscheduled leave or work from home, and some began their summer vacation, according to Maryland transportation officials. A number of offices were closed, and some activities were suspended.
Emergency generators were set up at nursing homes in the District of Columbia. Cooling centers also were set up for the public.
The District of Columbia was allowing residents to bring spoiled food to special collection spots rather than wait for their usual recycling and trash pick-up later in the week.
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