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Power may be out for a week for some customers

- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2012

Outages numbered in the hundreds of thousands for a second day, as officials warned residents across Maryland, the District and Virginia that power might not be restored until late in the week and crews worked in temperatures nearing triple digits to make repairs from a devastating storm that claimed more than a dozen lives.

During a conference call Sunday afternoon, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called the storm and the resulting outages a “major, major event.”

“The scope and scale of the power outages affecting every region of the state is almost unprecedented,” he said.

He also said the situation could deteriorate in coming days, warning of “significant risk of additional storms which could lead to additional outages.”

Rodney Blevins, vice president of Dominion Virginia Power, said the outage was the third-largest ever in the state and the only non-hurricane outage in the top five.

He said an additional 55,000 outages were reported overnight. At 2 p.m., Dominion Virginia reported more than a quarter-million outages in the Northern Virginia area, with just more than 400,000 outages statewide.

The power company is bringing in more than 1,000 line workers from 13 states and Quebec to assist in the recovery.

Mr. Blevins said that from a height of 1 million outages, 80 percent to 85 percent of service should be restored by Tuesday night, with 90 percent to 95 percent back by Thursday. Nearly all remaining outages should be restored by Saturday, with the hardest hit areas completed by Sunday.

Officials also confirmed that the death of a seventh person in the state, a Montgomery County rescue worker, was being attributed to the storm.

According to the Associated Press, at least six other people were killed in Virginia, including a 90-year-old woman who was asleep in her bed when a tree slammed into her home. Two cousins in New Jersey were killed when a tree fell on their tent while camping. Two were killed in Maryland, one in Ohio, one in Kentucky and one in the District.

Officials in Virginia also said 911 service, which failed Saturday in some areas of Northern Virginia, was fully restored.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley toured cooling centers Sunday morning in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

“There's been an unprecedented number of outages in a very unprecedented sort of storm. We've made some progress, but we still have a lot more work to do.”

Mr. O'Malley said at an afternoon press briefing that the state was suffering from an unexpected blow. The storm system that hit the region was much like a hurricane, but residents had only hours to brace for it.

“We took a hurricane punch without the three to four days of hurricane warning,” Mr. O'Malley said.

Non-essential Maryland state employees have been granted liberal leave on Monday, Mr. O'Malley said. Road conditions and dark traffic lights could make rush hour on Monday a “very very big mess,” he said.

As of 3:55 p.m. Sunday, there were 597,000 customers statewide without power — down from about 1 million on Friday night, Mr. O'Malley said from the Maryland State Emergency Operating Center.

In order to handle the demand, Pepco brought in crews from out of state, including Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia and Missouri. By Monday morning, Mr. O'Malley estimated that about 1,300 out-of-state crew members would be working to return power to residents.

All of Maryland's large power transmitters and substations were back up and running by Sunday, Mr. O'Malley said. He said that crews are now trying to restore power to residents and businesses, and crews will first concentrate on where there are the largest numbers of impacted customers.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, joined Mr. O'Malley on his Sunday afternoon conference call. Ms. Mikulski had spent the weekend in Baltimore observing the damage to infrastructure and businesses. Because Friday's storm was so unconventional, she was not sure about federal aid.

“In terms of federal assistance, this is unprecedented,” she said. “...We will have to look at how to do that.”

In the District, city officials said five health facilities, such as nursing homes and hospitals, 46 traffic signals and eight schools remained without power.

Officials also announced that D.C. Public Schools would be closed on Monday to all summer school and community activities, although administrative DCPS personnel should still report to work.

City-employed crews to remove debris from roadways, direct motorists at non-functioning traffic lights and clear downed trees.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray monitored the situation during his flight back from China, where he spent the last week on business, according to his spokesman. A joint emergency command continued to direct recovery efforts from the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency's Southeast headquarters throughout the weekend.

Meanwhile, the D.C. government advertised cooling centers through the city for people without power, including five libraries in select locations around the city, six recreation centers and three churches that volunteered to take in residents.

The District Department of Transportation reported that 69 trees had fallen on public space, although not in roadways. Nearly half of them, or 31, were in Ward 3, officials said.

Temperatures in the D.C. area were expected to remain in the high 90s Sunday afternoon, with a possibility for more thunderstorms in the evening. According to the National Weather Service, Monday temperatures are expected to be slightly cooler, with highs in the low 90s.

• Megan Poinski contributed to this report

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