The computers won't work. The phones are dead. There are no lights, air conditioning or coffee.

What's a lawyer to do?

The same thing other lawyers, bankers and office workers did in Northern Virginia yesterday when a storm Thursday night deprived hundreds of them of power on Friday. The storm brought some businesses to a thundering halt and left many people trying to cope in a world that suddenly had no phones, faxes or fluorescence.

"We have an appeal that's due Monday," said lawyer Jill Rupp. "We don't have any power. Our fax machine is down, our computers are down. The kitchen, there's no coffee, nothing to eat. We're real stressed."

By early this morning, about 350 Virginia Power customers, mostly in Fairfax County and Alexandria, as well as another 800 in the Fredericksburg area were still without power.

The Potomac Electric Power Co. reported that it had completed the last of its storm repairs in Prince George's County and the District by about 8 p.m.

At the storm's height, about 130,000 customers, mostly in Northern Virginia, lost electricity. The damage to power lines in the Virginia suburbs was the worst since the late 1960s, a Virginia Power official said, knocking out traffic lights, electric parking lot gates and elevators.

In Fairfax City, where power remained out in many of the business district's offices, Rupp was hunched over a thick law book next to a window in her firm's law library. It was the only light in the office. The door was propped open for air and a mist of perspiration began to moisten Rupp's brow.

She complained good-naturedly that the copying machines were down too, so that any research would have to be transcribed by hand. "I've got my flashlight to get back to some of these darker areas," Rupp said. "We need the flashlights to go to the bathroom too."

Some businesspeople went home yesterday morning, finding it difficult to communicate without machines.

Stan Levinson, an agent with Tatum Properties Inc. in Fairfax City, jabbed the buttons on his fancy new telephone in vain. "In a real estate office, {if} you don't have power, you don't have access to your phones, you don't have computers, you're out of business."

Only a secretary remained in the Tatum office early in the morning. The door was open to let in a breeze.

At the Continental Federal Bank, Vice President Dan Jeff chased after customers in the parking lot who were trying in vain to use the electrically powered automatic teller machines. Jeff directed them to another branch.

"I rely upon telephones and it's frustrating without a phone," said Jeff, who usually works inside, not outside, an office.

Jeff stood around in the bank's lobby with several other bank employees. "It's too hot upstairs. I'm staying down here."

"It's almost impossible to run an office in the summer without power," said Charles Sickels, managing partner of the law firm Hall, Markle, Sickels & Fudala PC.

"It pretty much shuts us down. It's surprising how quickly we adopt changes in the way we get information. A great deal of my information now comes over the fax. You rely on the fact that you can communicate quickly. And when you don't, it puts you in a tailspin," he said.

The storm that rumbled through the area was supposed to cool temperatures from the 100 degrees recorded at National Airport on Thursday. Although yesterday's high of 91 degrees at the airport was a decline of 9 degrees, that was more than hot enough for residents and businesses with paralyzed air conditioning.

At Chiengmai, a Thai restaurant in Fairfax City, owners Kitcha and Nil Maneechote tried to keep cool, with the front door propped open as a steady stream of cars drove by and belched hot fumes through the doorway.

"We try to keep laughing because there's nothing else to do," Kitcha Maneechote said.

Next door at Main Tailoring, Young and Hyung Han's sewing machines had come to a halt with the loss of power. They sought a respite from the heat with Popsicles as they waited for a dry-cleaning delivery before they called it a day. A worker from a nearby sandwich shop stopped in to share tales of the powerless.

"Almost 90 degrees," Young Han said as she glanced at a wall thermometer and slapped her forehead. "Too hot."

Staff writers Pamela Babcock and Patricia Davis contributed to this report.