- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2011

Mayor Vincent C. Gray has the National Guard “at the ready” and is preparing to declare a emergency in the District as Hurricane Irene threatens to produce tropical storm-like rain and winds in the capital region.

Mr. Gray said D.C. residents should brace for about 24 hours of storm activity from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, including 2-4 inches of rain and wind gusts up to 50 mph.

Electricity provider Pepco has ramped up crews and increased staff at its call centers, with tree-trimming crew set for dispatch as soon as unsafe winds die down toward the end of the storm, spokesman Bill Gausman said Friday.

Metro riders can expect usual service, but cancellation notices will be issued if winds reach 45 mph or other hazardous conditions occur, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

City offices and buildings will be closed on Saturday, except for public libraries and the Department of Motor Vehicles, Mr. Gray said.

Members of 30 city agencies will monitor the storm from the D.C. Unified Communications Center all weekend, starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, Mr. Gray said. Officials will update the public through social media and special messages on its city cable station, Channel 16.

“We are fully deployed,” Mr. Gray said. “We think we are as ready as we can be for this.”

The hurricane is already having an impact on the District. It forced city activists to cancel the D.C. Full Democracy Freedom Rally scheduled for Saturday in conjunction with events celebrating the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

The National Park Service and the foundation responsible for the memorial announced late Thursday that a highly anticipated dedication on Sunday has been postponed indefinitely out of concern for D.C. residents and thousands of expected visitors.

The District had been shaking off a 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the capital region on Tuesday, but Irene’s potential wrath became a much greater fear in the days that followed.

“This has been perhaps the most unusual week in the history of the District of Columbia,” Mr. Gray said Friday.

Mr. Gray urged city residents to stock up and form emergency plans with their families.

Residents can fill up containers with tap water instead of rushing out to the store in search of limited bottled water supplies, said George S. Hawkins, general manager of D.C. Water.

“Your water is safe,” Mr. Hawkins said. “You do not need to go out to a store and buy water, and a lot of stores are out already.”

Under pleasant skies Friday, the D.C. Department of Public Works will dole out five sandbags per household to city residents who want to prep their homes ahead of the storm forecast to strike late Saturday afternoon into Sunday.

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