WASHINGTON -- There's perhaps no more festive place to be the week of July 4 than in Washington, D.C.
But for many families, last week's severe storms crushed the joy of the quintessential American celebration.
"We saw tree limbs flying, branches flying, and then a very short time later we began to see flames, flames in front of this house and flames very much in front of the house down the street," one local resident said.
"We have a generator running at my house. We lost power 10:30 Friday night, I guess," resident Eugene Diefenback said. "So we have been running a generator, sharing with our neighbors, and that is the second time we have gone through it."
By the start of Monday's morning commute into Washington, hundreds of traffic lights remained powerless.
One commuter counted at least three malfunctioning lights on his two-mile commute.
Police and highway officials have warned drivers to proceed with caution or stay home if possible.
Many federal workers were given the option of working from home, but for those without power, returning to an air conditioned office was a welcomed reprieve.
One ice truck in Maryland could not have been more popular if it was carrying ice cream. Residents lined up for bags to preserve their food and simply stay cool.
For now, power company executives are becoming as well known as Washington's politicians as their customers anxiously await any news of relief from the stifling heat.
"We've requested over a thousand crews from different parts of the country, and we've secured between 175 to 200, and that doesn't mean that we are not going to keep asking," Joseph Rigby, CEO of the energy company Pepco, said.
Nearly 400,000 customers in the Washington metro area remain in the dark. Officials say it may be Saturday before all power is restored.