WASHINGTON – As work crews cleaned up the mess Hurricane Isabel (search) left in the nation's capital, the National Mall (search) became a refuge Saturday for some of the hundreds of thousands in the region whose home still lacked electric power.
Pamela Boone of Seat Pleasant, Md., said she had cabin fever after three days inside her darkened home.
"It's awful. It's terrible," she said. Boone and her 1gion had their power cut when Isabel roared past early Friday, its center cutting a path through rural Virginia to the west and on into West Virginia, western Maryland and Pennsylvania. With utility crews working overtime and help coming from as far away as Texas, power had been restored to close to half a million customers by afternoon Saturday.
Officials urged patience amid complaints from residents still waiting for the lights to flicker on. Elisabeth Gaffney, who's pregnant and has four children at home, said without electricity, her children's food is rotting in the refrigerator.
Cindy Goad and her husband, Chris, who lost electricity at their home in Richmond, Va., about 100 miles south of Washington, decided to pack their bags, head to a hotel in D.C. and tour the city's landmarks with their sons.
"It's either eat cold food and peanut butter sandwiches, and look at each other and listen to a radio until the batteries run out, or go someplace," Chris Goad said.
The Washington Monument (search), which reopened Saturday after being shuttered because of Isabel, was teeming with tourists waiting to ride to the top of the 555-foot-tall obelisk.
National Park Service crews were up at dawn replacing the 50 U.S. flags surrounding the monument. A crewman in a white cherry picker replaced the flags, left tattered and torn by the worst storm to hit the region in years.
Not far away, about 150 volunteers with rakes, brooms and shovels bundled up broken tree limbs and cleaned other debris scattered near the Lincoln Memorial.
An environmental group coordinated the event as part of the 10th annual National Public Lands Day.
The storm was blamed for one fatality in the capital area, a 24-year-old man whose car and a police cruiser collided at a Washington intersection where the signal was not working.