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Gray: Storm is ‘unlike anything our region has experienced in a very long time’

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D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said traditional public schools will be closed on Monday as the city girds for "what could be one of the strongest tropical systems in memory to affect our region."

The volatile mix of Hurricane Sandy and a cold-weather system storm is expected to hit the capital region the hardest between 8 a.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday, causing 5-10 inches of rain at rates of up to 2 inches per hour, Mr. Gray said during a pre-storm briefing Sunday at the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency's headquarters in Ward 8.

"Let me be clear," he said. "This storm is unique, large, dangerous and unlike anything our region has experienced in a very long time."

Mr. Gray declared a state of emergency in the District on Friday and has asked President Obama for a pre-landfall disaster declaration that would free up federal funds to pay for expected damage around the District. The mayor has not decreed any curfew in the city, but asked residents to use common sense and obtain enough supplies to sustain their families for up to 72 hours without power, officials said.

Pepco, the power utility that serves the District and thousands of Maryland customers, has secured 1,473 additional crew members from southern states that are less-affected by the storm, region President Thomas N. Graham said.

The utility had requested 3,700 additional crews, but demand for assistance in the region is competitive due to the size of the looming storm. From an industry-wide perspective, about 15,000 requests for additional resources have gone unfulfilled in the eastern states, according to Mr. Graham.

He also advised customers to report outages and downed wires.

"Any wire that you see down should be considered live," he said.

Residents also should remain in low levels — or at least away from windows — in their homes to avoid falling branches that may crash through their roofs or walls, HSEMA Director Christopher Geldart said.

Metro had not announced any closures on its rail and bus systems as of mid-Sunday, but it will issue alerts on its website as the storm progresses. Metro reported that it placed sandbags around its tunnels and stations and will have to slow down trains and buses during periods when winds reach sustained speeds of at least 30-45 mph.

D.C. Public Schools have already decided to close on Monday, and Mr. Gray said he is asking the city's public charter schools to follow suit.

Mr. Gray said the city has deployed a mobile emergency unit to Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods, which sustained devastating floorings during heavy rains over the summer.

Water from the tap is safe to drink during power outages, because the city's pumping stations have back-up power to maintain water pressure, said George Hawkins, general manager of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority. In the "highly unlikely" event that residents lose water pressure, Mr. Hawkins advised residents to save tap water in pitchers and fill their tubs with water so they could use it to flush their toilets.

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