- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2012

National Weather Service officials are predicting savage weather conditions for the next 72 hours, warning residents to stay home to avoid blistering winds and heavy rainfall.

But Capt. William Bennett of the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department is putting on another pot of coffee.

“When somebody calls, we respond,” the Station 6 captain said. “It doesn’t matter how much snow or rain. When it’s time to go to work, you do what’s necessary.”

Capt. Bennett is one of thousands of emergency crew members and essential personnel who will largely be ignoring safety warnings for this week’s “Frankenstorm,” a joking name for a serious mix of storm fronts that are expected to cause upwards of $1 billion in damages. The predictions are so dire, there have been cancellations of thousands of flights and train and bus trips, and the New York City subway system was shut down before the first drops of rain.

Despite the strong possibility for unsafe conditions, these firefighters, maintenance workers, utility crews and other necessary employees area are expected to head to work on Monday — if they are not already at their posts — to help make sure the millions of people who are not working remain safe and that life can return to normal when the skies clear.

“We’re in for the long haul,” Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said. “You will see our crews out there.”

The impending storm “is a statewide event,” Mr. Buck said, and crews are scheduled to be out on state roads monitoring flooded areas, downed trees and traffic.

A high-wind warning is in effect through 8 p.m. Tuesday, with temperatures in the low 50s, said National Weather Service science and operations officer Steve Zubrick.

A coastal flood watch from late Monday night through Tuesday evening is also likely, he said.

The forecast, Mr. Zubrick said, “all kind of depends on how quickly and just where the remnants” of Hurricane Sandy land.

The highway administration’s Mr. Buck said road crews will be deployed in large dump trucks to areas closed because of high water, though they stay on higher ground to ensure their own safety.

“Our maintenance folks know better than anybody the roads that are more prone to flooding,” he added.

High water is a problem, but for many of the rescue and emergency crews, strong winds could prove to be their weakness.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Kenneth Ellerbe said it is often impossible to take his agency’s vehicles onto the street when winds exceed 40 mph. The precaution applies to all units — particularly ambulances, because of their boxy and hollow structure.

“It may delay our responses to emergencies,” Chief Ellerbe said.

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