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Those Without Power Flock to Wheaton Mall

They came to enjoy the air conditioning, eat at the food court, and charge their electronic devices.

Almost every outlet was taken at on Monday afternoon. 

Alan Zhang, 18, and his brother, Andy, 15, lost power at their Aspen Hill home after Friday's storm, so they came to the mall to charge their cell phones.

And they weren't the only ones. Sprinkled throughout the mall, people sat next to pillars with their iPhones and laptops connected to power outlets.

But this was nothing like the crowd on Saturday, as Montgomery County residents without power swarmed the mall to take advantage of the free air conditioning, the plugs, and the wifi.

"We definitely noticed the increase in traffic over the weekend," said Sidney Woods, Westfield Wheaton's director of marketing. "Every outlet was occupied by a cell phone or a laptop."

Angie Jones, who works at the La Crepe kiosk in the mall's food court, said that the lines for the eateries stretched far across the open space.

"Every outlet on every wall in every store was taken with people charging their electronics and phones," said Clem Trott, 20, a clerk at Deb.

"People were sitting everywhere, on the floor and on display counters. There is a charging station next to the food court and there were at least 30 people cramming in there. Arguments broke out over who was there first. It was crazy."

She said people were walking barefoot, were grouping together and just hanging out. Some were seen sleeping in the public massage chairs and on benches.

"It was so crowded and hectic, and really busy," Trott said.

Some of those who came to the mall over the weekend returned on Monday.

Denae Williams, 12, and her sister, Desiree, 17, lost power in their Aspen Hill home. They said that when they came to the mall on Saturday, it was so crowded that they had to watch and wait until someone left an outlet.

Gillian Stoodley sat by another pillar, charging her laptop. She moved to Wheaton only two days ago; training for her job as an ESL teacher starts Tuesday, she said.

Although her apartment has a tiny generator that runs fans, Stoodley walked to the mall after her landlord told her that there was air conditioning there.

Most of those waiting for their electronic devices to charge passed the time by listening to music or reading.

But Sara Gibbs of Silver Spring and Oneg Levy of Aspen Hill decided to play a card game.

"It's War, the never-ending card game," Gibbs said.

The 25-year-olds are best friends, and when they're not working, they come to the mall for the air conditioning--and to charge their phones. When they ventured to the mall Saturday evening, "it was mobbed," Levy said. "Every food place had a 30-40 minute wait."

Both women have been eating out a lot, after throwing away most of their refrigerators' contents. 

But Levy is thankful for one thing: "It's better than having no power in the winter."

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