Anger festers in sweltering mid-Atlantic

Customers fill shopping cart with juice at grocery store in New Castle, Va. Monday
Customers fill shopping cart with juice at grocery store in New Castle, Va. Monday
Jeanna Duerscherl, AP Photo/The Roanoke Times

Updated 11:45 a.m. EDT

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - From the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic, some 1.4 million homes and businesses are still in the dark, and the heat, four days after violent storms caused heavy damage.

Many are now asking their local utilities why it's taking so long to get the lights back on.

Power companies say they've been playing catch-up as they struggle to get the Washington, D.C., area back online following Friday's big storm, which hit so quickly it caught just about everyone by surprise.

Ken Barker, vice president of Ken Barker Dominion Virginia Power, the largest electricity provider in the state, points out, "In parallel, we're restoring power and getting more resources in while we're restoring power, versus a hurricane, where we would pre-stage those resources."

The storm system originated in the Midwest and affected over four million households and businesses in seven states and the District of Columbia. President Obama declared federal emergencies in Ohio and West Virginia.

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The vast area affected by what officials are calling a catastrophic event has made it impossible to get the kind of assistance the Washington area usually counts on.

"The resources we'd usually get from Ohio or other places, they needed their contractors to restore service for their own customers," notes Pepco Region President Thomas Graham.

Pepco, one of the largest electricity providers in the district, launched an ad campaign back in January defending its oft-maligned service, but has come under new fire since the storm.

"Pepco's pace of restoring power, to me, anyways, is unacceptable, and the speed of their response has been disappointing," complains Washington Mayor Vincent Gray, "and how many times have we been through this before?"

In Virginia, Dominion has restored power to more than 75 percent of its customers, while more than 60 percent of Pepco customers are back online. Both companies hope to be near a full recovery by Friday.

With much of the greater Washington metro area still in a state of emergency, some local officials are warning the public that fireworks displays scheduled for the Fourth of July could be in jeopardy.

To see Chip Reid's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Chip-Reid_bio_140x100_bw.jpg
    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.