- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Businesses in suburban Maryland were forced to innovate yesterday after Tuesday’s thunderstorm knocked out power to 141,000 customers.

Spot outages lingered, making cashiers use hand calculators, restaurants move their food service to sidewalks, and police put in overtime directing traffic.

“What can we do? It’s nature,” said Farida Ibrahim, manager of the Starbucks coffee shop at Woodmoor Shopping Center in Silver Spring. “You have to take what it is.”

A lack of power compelled Mrs. Ibrahim and her employees to brew coffee at another Starbucks in nearbyWhite Oak, carry it to their own shop in jugs, then set up a coffee service for customers on a sidewalk table.

“They were pleased to see us here this morning,” Mrs. Ibrahim said.

Pepco said the outage this week was the worst since a January 1999 ice storm that knocked out power to 213,000 customers.

Local power companies brought in work crews from surrounding states to restore power, including Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

By 4 p.m. yesterday, 56,000 Pepco customers in Montgomery County, 16,000 in Prince George’s County and 8,000 in the District lacked power.

“We hope to have everyone up by tomorrow, but it could be as late as Friday before restoration is completed,” Pepco spokeswoman Dorothy Terry said. “We have 250 crews working to restore power.”

The crews are working 12 to 16 hours a day restringing power lines and replacing downed utility poles, she said.

Montgomery County activated its Emergency Operations Center to take calls about fallen tree hazards and downed power lines.

County police wearing orange vests were dispatched to direct traffic at the busiest intersections.

At the intersection of University Boulevard and Colesville Road in Silver Spring, Montgomery County Police Officer Orpheus Pierce reported no significant problems in moving traffic while the traffic lights are out.

“I think some people might like us better than the lights because we try to get everybody through,” Officer Pierce said.

Business owners hope they will not need to wait any longer.

At the Hoover-Fisher Florist store in Woodmoor Shopping Center, employees left their coolers open to prevent condensation damage to their most expensive roses, lilies, mums and irises.

The coolers stopped working with the lights.

Their telephones work but they lack the speed-dial option that allows them to quickly call their regular customers.

“We are open and we are delivering, but it’s just a little more difficult,” said Dottie Thomas, office manager for the florist.

A few miles south on Colesville Road, the Silver Spring Business Center building was operating on emergency backup power. Computers and other office equipment for the 22 businesses in the building at 8737 Colesville Road were shut down.

One block away, at City Place shopping mall,the power was on but the regular customers from the nearby offices were missing.

“It’s slow,” said Wesley Lee, manager of One Stop News magazine stand. He took the setback philosophically as he rang up a customer’s beverage purchase.

“It’s a nature thing,” he said.

In Bowie, the On the Border Mexican Grille and Cantina borrowed a refrigerated trailer from one of its vendors to avoid spoiling its food for the roughly 25 hours the restaurant lacked power.

“We moved all of our product into the trailer refrigeration,” said Steve Ricks, district manager for the restaurant.

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