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Sunday, December 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Life goes on — sort of — as many on the Eastside still without power

Seattle Times staff reporter

On the second day of a power outage, residents across the Eastside came out from under their grandmothers' quilts, removed their spouses' ski caps, peeled off three layers of pajamas and tried to get on with their lives.

Power was restored to some areas of the Eastside by Saturday morning, but thousands of residents remained without the electricity to generate heat or light or keep their food from spoiling. Some appeared resigned.

In a city where many residents remained without power, Bellevue's shopping district was all lit up on Saturday, with stoplights working and guards at every corner. Traffic was thick.

But elsewhere in the city, there was eerie silence. Cars jockeyed for position without the help of stoplights. Tree branches lay thick on the sides of the streets. Businesses were mostly open. Gas stations were mostly closed.

More than 50 cars surrounded an open gas station in Kirkland by noon. Wait times stretched as long as an hour. It got Glenn Pare, of Bothell, wondering what would happen in a "real emergency."

"Kind of scary," he said.

For residents seriously suffering from the cold, the Red Cross had set up two emergency shelters in Bellevue. Diane and Don Mehringer sat in Bellevue High School's gymnasium Saturday afternoon, reading the newspaper and watching television. Rows of cots sat in the corner.

For a while there, Diane Mehringer said, they made the best of a bad situation in their Bellevue home. But by Saturday, she was tired of wandering the house in earmuffs and a blanket. She did not like to see her husband lying in bed under piles of blankets, a ski hat on his head.

And the day was not getting any warmer. Back in the storm of '93, Mehringer was younger, and more willing to cope with the cold. Now, she said, age had caught up with her. The cold felt worse. She was willing to show up at a shelter.

"It's not worth fighting," she said.

For some, the whole thing was fun. Randy Simonsen of Sammamish kept himself busy lighting fires for his family the past two days.

"He thinks he's camping," said his daughter, Jessica Miller, also of Sammamish.

For her part, Miller spent the morning calling around to hotels in Seattle and Bellevue, trying to book a room, to no avail. On Saturday afternoon, facing another cold night, Miller was decidedly not having fun.

"All of a sudden, I'm like, 'I'm done,' " she said.

This was her second day at Bellevue Square. On Friday, Miller and her husband shopped the dark aisles of Nordstrom using flashlights. On Saturday, they sat in the children's play area, surrounded by climbing, crying children. The halls of the mall were thick with people, but warm.

Several miles away, at the Woodland Commons apartment complex, Vivek Gupta had found at least one thing to like in the storm. On Friday night, he and his friends used the barbecue outside to cook a traditional Indian meal for 20 people.

"We kind of enjoyed it," said Gupta. "It was kind of coming together in a different time."

In a nearby apartment, several other friends gathered in what seemed, at first, to be another slice of community good cheer. But this group was not in such a good mood. They were unwashed and unimpressed.

Outside, the barbecue was boiling a vat of water. One friend had already taken a bath. Five more friends to go.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or csolomon@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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