- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

Metro area residents living for five straight days without power are saying that electric companies — not Hurricane Isabel — are the villains.

“This is the worst,” said Elva Osborne of the 1400 block of Foxhall Road NW.

Mrs. Osborne, 88, has lived in her house since 1949 with husband Theodore, who now has advanced dementia.

“I have tried to get through to Pepco,” she said. “You have no chance to say if you have an emergency.”

Her frustration was shared by about 220,000 other power customers in the region — including some 1,000 in the Foxhall area — who have been without power since Thursday. Some of those customers had lost power for extended periods twice this summer.

“This is the second time in two weeks this community has been without power for five days,” said Janet L. McElligott, a Foxhall area resident.

On Aug. 28, a series of storms moved through the region, downing trees and power lines and leaving about 140,000 Pepco customers without electricity.

Three days later, about 400 of those customers in Montgomery County, about 100 in Prince George’s County and 100 in the District were still without power.

Complaints about the slow response from Pepco prompted Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat, to meet with power company officials to discuss why it took six days to restore electricity to the region.

Mr. Duncan said yesterday he understood customers’ concerns.

“I’m [also] frustrated,” he said “We’re working, of course, with the power company to get power restored, but it’s been very slow going.”

Ms. McElligott, 42, also said yesterday that Pepco promised after the storms in August that customers would not have this problem again.

She spoke not far from a massive, fallen tree that snapped power lines Thursday before coming to rest against the Rock Creek International school.

“You heard a pop [sound], then an electrical explosion,” said Tamara Hackett, 30, who also lives on Foxhall Road. “I called 911 without effect. The fire department, which is only three blocks away, finally showed up.”

Some D.C. residents still without power said they had quit trying to contact Pepco and are now calling Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

“I do have water,” Ms. McElligott said. “Thank God that Pepco is not responsible for water.”

Residents in the 1600 block of 22nd Street SE were also without power and frustrated yesterday.

A tangle of utility poles, a snapped tree, yellow caution tape and downed wires at the intersection of Q and 22nd streets created a tense situation for residents.

“This is a danger zone,” said Bettie Miller who lives on Q Street. “There are no street lights, and people don’t see that the road is closed until they get right up on the caution tape. I do not know how many times my car has almost been hit by people trying to turn around in my driveway.”

A Metropolitan Police Department cruiser was stationed at the intersection yesterday to keep away pedestrians. And residents said a Pepco truck has been at the intersection since Friday, but crews have been unable to repair the lines because of the entangled trees.

Pepco spokeswoman Amy Calhoun said the company sent a spotter to the area to assess the situation, but she could not say who was responsible for clearing the trees.

“This is the worst I’ve seen,” said Reid Lewis who had been living in area since 1968. “I had to get permission to use my front door because I cannot get in the back.”

Many residents along 22nd Street said they would prefer to stay outside on their porches to read and enjoy the light before another dark evening indoors.

Margaret Dixon, who has lived in her house since 1976, was among those who lost power twice this summer.

“My biggest beef is nobody will tell us anything,” she said. “We call Pepco and just hear a recording.”

Dominion Virginia Power Co. still had an estimated 46,000 customers in Northern Virginia without power.

“In the fifth day without power, I know everybody’s getting frustrated,” said Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat. “As I’ve heard of individual community’s concerns, I’m making sure they’re dealt with as soon as possible.”

A ban on drinking tap water in Fairfax County was lifted.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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