- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

Power companies in Virginia, Maryland and the District say the situation is improving by the hour, but officials concede that electricity won’t be restored to all of the estimated 1.8 million customers still in the dark until Friday.

President Bush will visit an emergency operations center today in Virginia, the state hardest hit by the storm last Thursday. Nineteen of the 33 deaths blamed on Isabel were in Virginia, and most of the power outages — almost 1 million businesses and households — are spread throughout the state.

More than 75,000 of those outages were reported in Northern Virginia late yesterday, according to Dominion Virginia Power. With more than 345,000 customers in the Washington area still without electricity late yesterday, school officials in the District and in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties decided late yesterday to cancel classes today.

About 240,000 Pepco customers were still without power yesterday, including 70,000 in the District, 105,000 in Montgomery County and 66,000 in Prince George’s County.

“We estimate that we will have all power restored by Friday,” Pepco spokeswoman Camille Smith said. “Our first priorities are hospitals and those in life-threatening situations, such as customers with downed wires.”

Pepco will then concentrate on restoring large clusters of customers before turning its attention to individual lines. Pepco, still reeling from storms last month that caused significant outages, said more than 2,500 downed wires have been reported.

Sixty-two crews from Tennessee and Kentucky arrived Saturday night to assist 570 Pepco crews with the restoration effort. The damage from the storm has caused crews to replace more than 130,000 feet of cable and thousands of fuses.

BGE, which provides power to more than 1 million Maryland residents, reported 21,000 customers in Prince George’s County and 2,000 in Montgomery County without power yesterday.

While school officials and utility crews were still dealing with the hurricane’s effects, Metro trains and buses were expected — for the most part — to return to regular schedules today.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said power has been restored to all subway stations and rail yards through the electric utilities, generators or a combination of both.

Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road stations on the Green Line, which were closed Friday and Saturday nights owing to lack of lighting, will remain open after nightfall.

Miss Farbstein said an electric feed line is powering the Greenbelt and Branch Avenue rail yards, so all 50 rail cars there will be available for today’s commute.

There is still no power at the Bladensburg bus yard, which affects 164 buses. If power is not restored by this morning, these buses, which operate on compressed natural gas, will run in the morning but will not be available during the afternoon.

Metro plans to operate its buses on regular schedules this morning, but will make plenty of detours owing to trees and debris in the roads.

The federal government, which sent workers home early Thursday and Friday, is back to its regular schedule today.

In Virginia, Alexandria schools will open on time and most Fairfax County schools will open two hours late.

However, 14 schools in Fairfax are without power and are closed. Parents are urged to check the school district’s Web site for updates. If power is restored before this morning, the schools will open.

Arlington County will open all school buildings that have power. As of 7 p.m. yesterday, seven buildings did not have power and would not open. However, if power is restored before this morning, they are expected to open.

The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, which serves 572,000 people in the District and more than 1.6 million in Maryland and Virginia, said it was prepared for the effects of the storm. The drinking-water-treatment plant and distribution systems serving the District are operating normally.

The two treatment plants operated by the Army Corps of Engineers did not lose power, and the major pumping stations pressurizing the D.C. system are in full operation.

Power was lost Thursday at the pumping station in Northwest, but an emergency generator kept the station running.

In Maryland, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed paperwork yesterday that will release millions of dollars in federal funding for Maryland. He said he is satisfied with the efforts utilities have made to get residents back online.

“Does that mean, if your power has been out for 72 hours, you’re satisfied? No, of course not, because life is just not going to be the same,” Mr. Ehrlich said at a news conference.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Democrat, said about 10,000 people are without water across the state and 2 million are still being advised to boil their tap water.

President Bush was scheduled to be in Richmond today to discuss the federal government’s role in disaster relief for the state and to videoconference with officials from other affected states.

In Fairfax County, the water is still not fit for consumption, but supply levels are back to normal, said the Fairfax County Water Authority. Power was restored to all of the county’s water-supply plants, but the water must still be boiled before it is used for cooking, drinking or brushing teeth.

Beginning yesterday, Prince George’s County residents were able to pick up water from the county fire departments: Burrowsville, Carson, Carson Substation, Prince George’s and Jefferson Park. Each person is limited to 2 gallons of water and must provide their own containers.

The Prince William County government yesterday also gave out water at the McCoart Government Building at One County Complex Court in Nokesville.

Shower facilities were available from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at N.B. Clements Junior High School in Prince George’s County. Identification and proof of residency were required.

Area residents tried not to let the outages affect their regular routines, and many attended church services yesterday throughout the region.

Spotty power outages plagued communities around Kensington but did not cause any church-service outages yesterday.

Holy Redeemer Catholic members arrived as usual for Sunday services, although they had to light candles to follow the leadership of priests.

Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church at 9600 Cedar Lane on the border with Bethesda was without electricity but had Sunday services as usual in the shadows while a piano instead of an organ provided hymnal music.

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