- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2011

The D.C. region returned to relative calm Monday after an “extraordinary week” in which a rare earthquake damaged two national icons, then Hurricane Irene arrived and knocked out power to roughly 1 million customers.

The region was largely spared from the hurricane’s wrath that caused at least 38 deaths in 11 states and historic flooding as far north as Vermont. Yet crews across Maryland, Virginia and the District worked around the clock to clear downed trees, repair fallen power lines and restore power to homes, schools, hospitals and other customers.

In Maryland, about 430,000 residences and businesses remained without power as of 5 p.m., Gov. Martin O'Malley said Monday. About 822,000 customers lost power at the height of the storm, which pelted the state with heavy rain and winds from Saturday night to early Sunday morning.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and members of the state’s congressional delegation took an aerial tour Monday to assess the damage in Hampton Roads.

Mr. McDonnell, who surveyed the Richmond area Sunday, said power had been restored to 600,000 customers and that nearly all restorations would be completed by Friday. He estimated that the storm, which caused four deaths in Virginia, had knocked out power to 1.1 million customers — or 2.5 million people.

Josue Juarez (left) and Edgar Cervantes, with Mulheron Tree Experts, remove a tree on Monday that fell during gusts from Hurricane Irene in D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood. An "extraordinary week" saw an earthquake last Tuesday followed by the hurricane over the weekend. (Associated Press)
Josue Juarez (left) and Edgar Cervantes, with Mulheron Tree Experts, remove a ... more >

In the District, electricity provider Pepco reported about 7,000 customers without power as of 5 p.m. Monday, primarily in Northeast, as the city continued to recover from an unusually busy week in late summer.

“Somebody got the calendar wrong,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray, alluding to the earthquake, hurricane, and canceled plans for the dedicate Sunday of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. “I think this was the most eventful week in the history of the city.”

The Washington Monument and the Washington National Cathedral were damaged in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake Tuesday.

D.C. Public Schools reported minor damage from flooding, leaks and downed trees at some of its facilities from Irene’s heavy rains and winds. Fourteen schools lost power, forcing them to close Monday.

They all will reopen today. However, two schools — the Oyster Building of Oyster-Adams Bilingual School in Ward 3 and Thomas Elementary in Ward 7 were still without electricity Monday afternoon so the city has identified alternative school sites for today in case power was not restored overnight.

DCPS said parents should still bring their children to both schools. Students will be taken to an alternate site if necessary.

“With earthquakes and hurricanes, anything can happen,” schools spokesman Frederick Lewis said. “This has been an extraordinary week that required an extraordinary effort from everyone involved in the DCPS community.”

Officials said student safety remains their primary concern.

Morning traffic in the District moved smoothly Monday, despite 29 non-functioning traffic signals that required mobile stop signs or personnel to direct traffic, said John Lisle, a spokeman for the District Department of Transportation.

The agency received nearly 1,600 tree-related reports and worked its way through 487 work orders to remove debris and branches, prioritizing trees and other materials that fell on homes, wires or roadways, Mr. Lisle said.

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