Nothing could keep the regulars from stopping by Leesburg Restaurant when an ice storm left much of the Washington region without electricity last week. Customers, waitresses and cooks sat in the dark, eating ham and cheese sandwiches and the special peanut soup -- cooked on a steam line -- and smoking cigarettes, all by scented candlelight.
"It's more ambience than you'd get normally," waitress Mickey Quintana said jokingly.
Wednesday's ice storm hit Loudoun County harder than any place in Northern Virginia. More than 22,000 customers here and 6,000 in Fauquier County lost power, said Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power Co.
About 1,400 remained without power Thursday in rural western Loudoun, near Middleburg and Purcellville, and 300 were in the dark Friday.
The power company prioritized customers near towns and subdivisions, where fixing one line meant restoring power to several hundred customers.
"It takes you just as much work in the rural areas, but you end up only fixing maybe 13 customers, whereas in closer areas, you can get 300" back on line, Norvelle said.
The icy conditions made small, gravelly roads harder to navigate, and power poles were often too slippery to climb, officials said.
In Leesburg, temporary stop signs replaced darkened traffic lights. The town's antiques stores and outlet mall shops closed early or never opened, a disappointment during the holiday shopping season, managers and customers said.
Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets mall saw a huge dip in shoppers Wednesday, said Greg Lloyd, manager of the food court, where lights flickered on and off.
"Oh, my God, I hope these lights don't go out before the weekend, or else no one's going to come out," he said during lunchtime.
Jackie Mercer drove from Ellicott City, Md., to Leesburg to shop at the outlet stores.
"I wanted to go to the Pottery Barn, but the sign said it was closed due to inclement weather," she said, "and I got this big piece of furniture in my car that doesn't fit in my living room that I want to exchange."
Some business owners in Leesburg stayed open and braved the dark and cold.
"There's no heat, but I'm okay with it. I get used to it. I need to make an extra couple bucks," said Boomer Lin, owner of Boomer's Penny Pincher near Catoctin Circle, where more than 20 shops and restaurants lost power.
Many of his regulars stopped in for cases of beer, loaves of bread and cigarettes. They also came hunting for their usual week's worth of lottery tickets, forgetting that they are printed on a machine run by electricity.
The nearby Leesburg Pharmacy at the Virginia Village strip mall closed but allowed entry to customers picking up emergency prescriptions.
"They're pretty grateful, and they're very understanding, given the circumstances," said John Riley, the pharmacy's general manager.
Fauquier schools were closed for two days. Loudoun schools were closed Wednesday and opened two hours late Thursday. Waterford Elementary remained without power Thursday so 100 children were bused to nearby Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, where they shuffled between the auditorium and cafeteria for classes.
"The kids were having a ball being up at the big school," said Robert Burke, the school system's security supervisor. "It was exciting for them."
In the only major traffic accident on Wednesday in Loudoun, a Jeep Cherokee drove off a Route 28 overpass and dropped about 25 feet onto a shoulder of the Dulles Toll Road, said Kraig Troxell, a spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office.
Victor Lemus, 48, the driver, was treated at Reston Hospital for injuries that were not life threatening. The accident triggered a series of fender benders involving seven vehicles, but no major injuries were reported.