By NAFEESA SYEED Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) Hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity Monday in the Washington area and may not get power back for days after powerful storms toppled utility poles, power lines and trees and left two people dead.
A cold front that pushed through Sunday triggered the storm and took the edge off a nearly two-week heat wave, but highs up to 90 were still forecast as crews labored to restore the power grid in neighborhoods pummeled by gusty winds and torrential rains.
The storms knocked out power to more than 430,000 customers in the region.
On Monday, regional utility Pepco reported about 232,000 customers were still blacked out in Washington and neighboring Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland. Because the damage was so widespread, there was no timetable for most places to be back on line, Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey said.
"This is going to be a multiple-day event," Hainey said, comparing the outages to those in the wake of Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
Not only were power lines down but electric poles were broken and numerous transformers were damaged, he said.
Two deaths were also attributed to the storm. In Loudoun County, a 6-year-old boy died after a large section of a tree fell on him while he was walking with his family, authorities said. In Beltsville, Md., a tree crushed a minivan, killing a woman in her 40s and injuring a woman in her 60s, Prince George's County fire spokesman Mark Brady said.
Traffic signals were knocked out, resulting in about a dozen car crashes, Brady said. In the most severe accident, two people were transported to a hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
In Washington, officials said there were more than 270 reports of fallen trees or very large limbs and parts of trees that caused damage. Fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said about half a dozen homes were significantly damaged by falling limbs, and 10 boats overturned in the rivers that border the city. Three cars caught fire as a result of downed power lines.
"The dust is settling, and we're extremely busy," Piringer said.
Baltimore Gas + Electric said about 37,000 customers were without service early Monday, though a total of 112,000 lost power as a result of the storms. BGE expected the majority of customers to have power restored by Tuesday evening.
Dominion Virginia Power reported that 10,700 customers were without power Monday, down from 94,000. The power company said it expected to have most of the power back on by Monday at midnight.
Power also went out at more than a dozen Metrorail stations and heavy rain flooded one station, the transit agency said. Officials said many generators were still in use early Monday.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said the storm also cut off power at its filtration plant that provides water for nearly 2 million people in suburban Maryland. The commission said although power had been restored Monday, mandatory restrictions on water use were still in place.
In Prince George's County, authorities say the storm damaged nearly three-dozen apartment buildings, displacing hundreds of residents.
In Washington on Sunday, wind blew off parts of Boy Scouts floats as police cars led a parade convoy away from the National Mall under darkened skies. Drenched tourists ran barefoot through puddles, struggling against the gusty winds to find shelter.
On Monday, some counties closed summer camps and other programs.
Before the storm, the area had been suffering in oppressive heat for almost two weeks with temperatures in the high 90s.
Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.
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