After Hurricane Irene, 3.3 Million Americans Still in the Dark

More than 8 million people originally lost power because of Irene.

Aug. 30, 2011 -- More than 3.3 million Americans in Hurricane Irene's wake are still in the dark and power outages are spread out over 13 states and Washington, D.C.

The number outages is down sharply, however, from the 8 million people who were knocked off the grid by Irene's weekend rampage and power companies said today that electricity should be restored to most people by Wednesday or Thursday.

Zerline Hughes and her two children have been living without power in the nation's capital since early Sunday morning.

"We were prepared, we just weren't prepared for this long," Hughes said. "We knew something was coming and even though I personally didn't think it was going to hit D.C. hard, I knew to put everything in place so that it was in easy reach. ... We weren't one of the thousands of families rushing to the grocery stores and the Home Depots to stock up."

While Hughes was prepared with food, water and flashlights, Robert Richardson, owner of, says the majority of people are not.

"If you live anywhere on the East Coast you should have at least five to seven days of supplies in your house," Richardson told ABC News. "Bad things happen. I'm not trying to scare people or anything like that, but you should always be prepared for something like this."

Richardson advises that people prepare for an emergency in the same way they would get ready to go camping.

"If you have gone camping before try and think of the kind of things you would bring on a camping trip where you don't have any power or access to water," he said. "Basically, after this kind of disaster you're going to be pretty much camping out in your house for a number of days."

Power companies say their top priority is to get hospitals, police stations, emergency call centers and other vital services back online. Next up are schools followed by neighborhoods and homes.

Hughes says she is fortunate that the biggest inconvenience for her has been trying to make sure her food does not spoil.

"In driving around the city there are trees down on people's houses and some people don't have roofs anymore, so we're not in an emergency situation like other people are," she said. "The biggest inconvenience for me has been getting rid of my food in the refrigerator. ... I've been going to my other neighbors who do have power and dropping off food. So about two different neighbors have food that was once in our refrigerator."

Prep for a Hurricane As If You're Going Camping

One of the key tools Hughes has been using to find out who has power is Facebook. She posted a message and immediately found family, friends and neighbors willing to help.

Richardson says it is important to have a way to charge your phone. He suggests having a car charger or purchasing a crank or solar radio that has an adapter to plugin a cell phone.

Hughes has taken to charging her phone, laptop and son's Nintendo DS at work, but admits once the batteries run dry, the time together and freedom from electronics has been a nice change of pace.

"We've spent the past few mornings reading and making use of the natural sunlight. ... We have also been doing a lot of cooking," she said. "It definitely brought families together I would say. My own family, we are doing more things together. ... The last time I can remember doing this much together was during the blizzard when we were snowed in. It's unfortunate, but sometimes we need those little reminders."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.