- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 27, 2011

D.C. residents appeared to be heeding the call to stay indoors as the worst of Hurricane Irene’s wrath approached the city, Mayor Vincent C. Gray said late Saturday.

“I’ve been all over the city over the last few hours, and people have heeded the request to stay off the streets,” he told The Washington Times on Saturday night.

Mr. Gray said clear streets made it easier for emergency crews to respond to crises, although no significant incidents or damage had been reported as of 9 p.m. Bridges and tunnels were open, and Metro was running train service as usual, the mayor said.

However, more than 5,000 Pepco customers were without power in the District — down from a peak of 9,155 — and “we expect there to be more,” Mr. Gray said.

The heaviest rain and winds were expected to hit the D.C. area between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., prompting city officials to keep watch over areas along the Anacostia River and in Georgetown that are prone to flooding.

Mr. Gray said D.C. residents could expect winds of 35-45 mph and gusts up to 70 mph during the storm’s peak period, as well as 4-8 inches of rain.

Conditions were not expected to be as severe in the D.C. area as on the Eastern Shore, but officials have warned residents they could see power outages, flooding and downed trees as a result of recent rain that has saturated the ground throughout much of the region.

City officials also shot down rumors, circulated in cyberspace, that there was a citywide curfew.

“There was never any discussion of a curfew, because people have heeded the call to stay indoors,” Mr. Gray said.

The mayor said crews would take stock of downed trees and any other damage in the early morning, capping a strange series of days that saw a 5.8-magnitude earthquake and the postponement of ceremonies to dedicate the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on Sunday.

“This is the week that was,” Mr. Gray quipped.

In other developments, the D.C. Department of Public Works shut down its sandbag distribution efforts at RFK Stadium at 3 p.m. after handing out thousands of bags to a long line of vehicles.

Mr. Gray greeted numerous motorists in line and noted they were in “great spirits” and recognize the seriousness of the situation.

City libraries and the Department of Motor Vehicles locations closed early, at 3 p.m., and Capital Bikeshare was shut down at 6 p.m.

Officials opened the Kennedy Recreation Center at 1401 7th St., NW, in Ward 2 was open to those who had been displaced by storm. Three other centers were set to accept displaced residents: Emory Recreation Center at 5801 Georgia. Ave., NW, Turkey Thicket Recreation Center at 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE, and the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center at 701 Mississippi Avenue, SE.

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