Around the region, people sought refuge in the malls, restaurants and coffee shops that had their lights on and air conditioning humming. Families tried to save food from spoiling in warming refrigerators, and long lines formed at the few gas stations that still had power. Cars waited 10 deep at an open Exxon in Chevy Chase, where some customers hunting for fuel had driven from as far away as Rockville and Germantown.
At Sibley Hospital in the District, maintenance and landscaping workers used chainsaws to cut apart a felled tree blocking the emergency room entrance.
Nurses and technicians who worked a 12-hour shift Friday saw a wave of new births — some appeared to be induced by the heat — then left the hospital near midnight only to find all roads home blocked with trees and debris. Several returned and slept at the hospital until their shifts began again Saturday. Others who learned that they had no electricity at home stayed to work overtime instead.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who is on a seven-day trade mission to China, issued a statement offering his thanks to emergency first responders “who have been out there all night and will be out all day today in the heat.”
At its height, the storm knocked out power for more than 1.5 million homes and businesses across the region, a number that fell Saturday as power companies dispatched crews. More crews were expected to arrive Monday from as far away as Texas and Florida.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, Pepco reported more than 420,000 customers without power in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the District.
Pepco spokesman Clay Anderson said the outages since Friday night were twice as bad as those during Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Dominion Virginia Power reported at midday that about half its Northern Virginia customers — about 419,000 homes and businesses — remained without power. Fairfax County appeared hard-hit.
In the area served by Baltimore Gas and Electric, more than 418,000 homes and businesses lacked electricity as of 1 p.m. Saturday. The company serves 1.2 million customers in an area that reaches southward into parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.
Many gas stations, lacking power to run their pumps, were closed. At one open station, an Exxon outlet on North Washington Street near the Rockville Town Center, vehicles idled in a line that stretched several blocks long in the blistering heat.
Waiting on foot with two empty 5-gallon containers was Gayle Day, 42, of Silver Spring. “I drove all the way on Viers Mill Road and this was the only gas station open,” she said, recalling how she used her car’s GPS to guide her from gas station to gas station.
People such as Alison Sistrunk found themselves trolling around in their cars or, in her case, a white SUV, in search of food and coffee.
“The only thing we have working is the telephone,” said Sistrunk, a Bowie resident who was among the BGE customers without power Saturday morning. “I have battery-operated candles for light, but the entire area is down.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission issued mandatory water restrictions Saturday for all residential and commercial customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties because the storms had knocked out power to WSSC’s two water filtration plants and other facilities.
The restrictions might remain in place for days, officials said. Even after the electricity is back, it will take time to pump water back into holding tanks, said WSSC spokesman I.J. Hudson. And more damaging storms might be on the way, he added.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, there are still electrical outages,” Hudson said. “Don’t water the flowers, postpone using the dishwasher, and take a short shower if you’re going to take a shower.” Hudson also urged customers to not to flush toilets after every use.
Tap water remains safe to drink, Hudson emphasized, but he said customers may notice low pressure in some areas.
DC Water said it had experienced no storm-related problems.
Girl Scouts from Troop #287 in Southeast Washington decided Saturday to beat the heat and escape power outages at a water park in Alexandria, only to find sign out front of Cameron Run Regional that said “Closed No Power.”
“We’ve got plenty of sun, but no fun,” said Renee Glenn, 39, of District Heights. She wondered how they would stay cool as temperatures approached triple digits.
She and another mother whipped out their smart phones to figure out whether a water park in nearby Fairfax was open.
“If I don’t jump in some water soon, I’m going to roast,” said her daughter, Lehymia, 15.
Lori Aratani, Michelle Boorstein, Beth Chang, Pam Constable, Aaron Davis, Annie Gowen, Hamil R. Harris, Anita Kumar, Luz Lazo, Carol Morello, Joe Stephens, Lena Sun, Susan Svrluga, Ted Trautman, Karen Tumulty, John Wagner, Ovetta Wiggins and Mihir Zaveri contributed to this report.