Slowly but surely the air conditioners, fans, refrigeration and lights returned to life in the Washington area yesterday as Pepco and Vepco crews struggled to repair the damage wrought by Tuesday's thunderstorm.

But many customers expressed outrage yesterday over long interruptions in their electrical service, even after power was restored. Their complaints ranged from spoiled food and exposure to live power lines, to the difficult they had in registering complaints with the power companies.

The storm - one of the most destructive here in recent memory - blacked out nearly 90,000 homes and businesses in the metropolitan area for varying periods.

Late yesterday, Pepco reported 800 to 1,200 customers still out of power in wide ly scattered, isolated places in Washington and the Maryland suburbs. Vepco said only 45 to 50 customers in Northern Virginia were still without power.

"After 42 hours without power, two calls to my congressman, and countless calls to Pepco the electricity finally came back," said Frank Kimmel of Potomac. Kimmel owns four horses on Tulip Lane and said he had to cart water 60 miles for the animals after his electricity-powered water supply system went out.

On Morrison Street NW, Art Naperstek complained to Pepco about live wires that were dangling in front yards and on sidewalks in his neighborhood.

"I tried calling Pepco dozens of times," said Naperstek, whose power was turned on after a 24-hour. It was the fact that these lines were still down even after the power was turned on. It was absolutely unbelievable."

Pepco spokesperson Doris Newcomb said, "We've had to contend with over 40,000 phone calls in the last day and a half and our lines are all jammed."

Newcomb said the live wire hazards - including Naperstek's - were removed and the main feeder cables repaired yesterday morning. She added that Pepco crews - some of which were contracted from Philadelphia Electric - were concentrating yesterday afternoon on secondary lines feeding into individual blocks and houses.

"Its incredibly time-consuming work," Newcomb said. "They have to first get the trees and limbs away from the wires, then fix up the lines. Crews will be working through the rest of (Thursday) night."

Yesterday's weather did not help cool the anger of many blacked-out District residents. The high temperature, according to the National Weather Service, was 92 degrees. The forecast for today is for continued fair and sunny weather, with the high temperature expected to be between 88 and 92 degrees.