Cots are laid out at the Bowie Senior Center in Bowie, Md., which serves as a temporary cooling center. People without power are invited to take naps or sleep overnight while they await the return of their power.

by Akeya Dickson
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Marie Bangura played host to some impromptu family bonding this weekend by turning her home into a cooling center of sorts in the wake of storm-induced power outages. She welcomed her parents and two younger brothers to stay with her in her one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in northeast, Washington, D.C.

“I invited them and was like ‘you know what, just come over,” said Bangura of her family, who hails from Sierra Leone. “We’re African, we’ve done this whole cramped up living before so let’s just act like we’re back in the motherland for a little bit.”

Millions are still without power, the heat wave records have gone up in flames, and 18 states are still on heat advisories as of Monday.

Kadi Sillah-Bah relaxing at her daughter Marie’s house as the family bunked together over the weekend. Photo taken by Marie Bangura.

Her family lost their power in their Annandale, Va. home and regained it Sunday. Bangura, who lives alone, said that having company reminds you of things you take for granted: like the bathroom.

“A whole package of toilet paper rolls literally lasts me months, and we wen’t through three rolls in just a day and a half,” said, who is an institutional review specialist for the U.S. Department of Education. “I think we were just conscious about people going to the bathroom like ‘oh, are you going to the bathroom again?’ That just made me conscious of things that I take for granted because I don’t buy that stuff on a regular basis.”

They wiled away the time watching walking down memory lane and Bangura’s younger brothers, caught her up on their first year of college. And after shutting down 24-hour news channel surfing, Bangura and her brothers also broke down some pop culture idiosyncrasies for their mom, Kadi Sillah-Bah.

“My parents are so African, they don’t get the African channel in Virginia and thought that they were going to be in here watching the African channel, CNN and BBC all day long,” she said. “That got shut down quickly and we watched movies and got into the whole Kim Kardashian thing and why people care so much. My mom didn’t know who she was. It wasn’t bad at all, and of course my parents go to sleep at 8 o’clock.”

While Bangura’s family had power again, the people who stayed overnight at the Bowie Senior Center, which doubled as a cooling center, were still without it but were dealing with a relatively happy problem: it was too cold.

The air-conditioned center opened its doors to people of all ages who lost power in Friday’s storm. And with power expected to be restored as late as next weekend, the palatial 29,000-square-foot facility has cots in the rooms where regular attendees play Mah-Jongg and take Tai Chi, said Laurel Raymond, the center’s senior assistant manager.

“They actually had themselves wrapped up in blankets,” she said of the 24 people who bunked at the Bowie, Md. location. “The interesting thing too that I hadn’t thought about is that on a cot, the air circulates under you, so that should keep you very cool. So we actually told them to bring their pillow and an extra blanket because you might be chilly.”

The center didn’t lose power and is on a backup generator in case it ever did, and is set up to be the place where people can come in cases of emergency. Raymond said that they’ve posted signs to let people know that the center is operating 24 hours as a cooling center. Eight people came Saturday evening and they expect some return guests.

“We’re offering of course cold water and a place to spend the night,” she said. “Most people have been able to get food or bring food with the so that hasn’t been an issue so far so that’s good. We’re trying to make it feel a little bit like home and there’s been a real sense of community.”

The guests rose early and went home to take showers or to the nearby Bowie Town Center shopping mall. Some people made pit stops to plug in their cellphones and other devices or just to rest.

“Yesterday we had some people come in who were really tired and actually just wanted to nap, so we set it up a quiet room today and we can cover the windows so it can be dark,” she said.

Steve Satchell was with his bowling league on Friday when the torrential downpour kicked in. And the rain came down right onto the actual bowling lanes of Rinaldi’s in Riverdale, Md., effectively shutting it down until the roof could be repaired.

Once the rain subsided, Satchell hung out with friends and was hopeful that his power hadn’t flickered. Met with disappointed – and darkness – when he arrived home to his Bloomingdale neighborhood in northeast Washington, D.C., he’s been staying with friends here and there ever since.

“I was crashing at a friend’s house here and a friend’s house there,” he said. “The hot water is still fine, it’s just too hot in the house. So I’ll stop by to check and see if it’s still out and when when I have to go somewhere I can take a shower. At least I can still be fresh.”

In the meantime, he’s keeping his cellphone charger on him and juicing up at a gas station, restaurants and friends’ houses whenever he gets a chance.

“I was tempted to go check and see if it was back during lunch,” said Satchel, a production manager at the Law Offices of Stewart and Stewart, on Monday.

Living on the lower level of a house and spared water damage, he said that his landlord hasn’t gotten a concrete word timetable on when power will be restored.

“It’s weird because when I was leaving yesterday, I saw that my neighbor had power,” he said. “I was like, ‘where’s the love?’”

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