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Nonetheless, Maryland and Virginia officials are preparing for the worst, with both states’ governors on Thursday declaring states of emergency.

The executive orders issued by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley direct their states’ National Guards and emergency personnel to mobilize.

Mr. O’Malley said Maryland officials are especially worried about the storm’s effect on the state’s Lower Eastern Shore, including Ocean City — a resort town where local officials on Thursday ordered residents to evacuate by 5 p.m. Friday.

Virginia officials have activated the Virginia Evacuation Coordination Team for Operational Response to assess the storms potential impact, Virginia State Police personnel have been placed on stand-by, and chain-saw crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry are standing by with emergency-response personnel.

“We have fully briefed local government officials throughout the day,” Mr. McDonnell said. “State agencies are preparing for the event in a number of ways. It’s a very serious storm, and Virginians must continue to monitor it.”

D.C. officials also announced Thursday that the D.C. Department of Public Works will offer free sandbags to residents starting Friday afternoon.

Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on Thursday urged residents to heed the safety warnings of local officials.

“I just cannot express this enough,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “If you live in an evacuation zone, you should evacuate.”

Mr. Fugate said residents should monitor local television and radio broadcasts and that the loss of cellphone service during Tuesday’s earthquake showed the emerging value of Facebook, Twitter and other social-media sites to send and receive information.

While officials are urging residents to stay out of harm’s way, utility companies are preparing for power outages throughout the region.

Pepco — the primary energy provider to the District and much of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties — is bringing in 150 utility workers from Ohio and was requesting even more assistance Thursday afternoon, company spokesman Andre Francis said.

The utility company has also secured 340 extra utility contractors in advance of the storm, as well as 330 workers on tree-clearing crews.

Pepco has often been criticized for past failures to restore power after even minor storms, but Mr. Francis said the company has recently enacted several new policies that could prove beneficial, including now dispatching crews from locations throughout its coverage area, rather than just from a single service center in Bethesda.

“We’re definitely trying to get ahead of this and make sure we have all of the resources that we can possibly have,” he said. “Every single storm is different, but we learn from every single one of them.”

The storm is also expected to cause flight delays at Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, where officials said Thursday they are not making any specific preparations other than watching the forecasts and urging flight passengers to remain aware of any rescheduling done by airlines.

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