Capt. Bennett said that normally his ladder trucks are also not allowed out in high winds above 35 mph to avoid the risk of toppling over.
Though it’s on a case-by-case basis, when calls come in during a significant weather event, the fire company will often send out a smaller truck or SUV to handle the call, saving the engine and ladder trucks for major emergencies.
“A couple years ago with the snowstorm, we were up all night long,” Capt. Bennett said. “We were tying up engines and ladders going out for areas that had no power or wires down, and there was nothing we could do about it. We were getting stuck, knocking down wires. We were creating as much of a hassle trying to get to other things.”
Assistant D.C. Police Chief Lamar Greene said his officers would be out “as long as humanly possible,” but if winds top 50 mph, the department typically issues an order to “shelter in place” on their beats.
“That’s probably what we’re going to do if this storm reached that point,” he said.
Sustained winds from the storm may delay Pepco’s ability to hit the streets until Wednesday.
“At winds of 35, 45 miles per hour, it’s an unsafe condition for our crews,” region President Thomas N. Graham said. “During those high-wind periods, our crews can’t do restoration. So if that condition exists, you’re not going to see our trucks out immediately.”
The electric utility that serves the District and surrounding counties in Maryland requested 3,700 additional crew members. So far, 1,473 are “on their way” from Southern states that will be less affected by the storm, Mr. Graham said. The additional crews will meet up with local crews at a staging area in Montgomery County and stay in local hotels during their stay.
Despite the worry about weather conditions, Pamela Baker-Masson, spokeswoman for the National Zoo, said the zoo has a set of protocols for bad weather. Because the zoo runs on a 24/7 work schedule, “we’re pretty well-practiced and well-rehearsed” for unique situations.
“We simply secure the animals, and the animals who have access to indoors and outdoors will probably be kept inside this evening,” Ms. Baker-Masson said. “We have plenty of food and water. We always have staff on our property … and in case we lose power, the generators come on for us.”
Another round-the-clock agency ready to handle the storm is the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.
“The core of what we are able to do at all times is run our facilities,” said George Hawkins, general manager of the authority. “The pump stations have to keep going; our treatment facilities have to keep going. So our essential personnel come in, no matter what kind of storm is going on.”
The agency keeps food stockpiled at those facilities, particularly its massive Blue Plains advanced wastewater treatment plant, so personnel can shelter on site as needed.
A man who answered the phone at the headquarters of the U.S. Postal Service — with a motto that boasts no weather is too awful to stop the mail — said carriers would likely be out on Monday, but that was dependent on when the storm strikes.
“Sometimes it can get conflicted. It’ll be a normal workday [for carriers], but they’re looking at the TV, and the governor says they’re closing the state down. It can get a little hairy.”