- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2003

The lights flickered back on and the TVs returned to life yesterday in most of the 1,900 area homes without power since last week’s thunderstorms.

As of yesterday evening, about 600 homes and businesses were still without power — about 400 in Montgomery County, 100 in Prince George’s County and 100 in the District, according to Pepco, which supplies electrical power to the District and some Maryland suburbs.

“We’ll get everybody back hopefully by late night,” Pepco spokesman David Morehead said yesterday evening.

The five-day, around-the-clock effort to restore power started Tuesday afternoon after a thunderstorm battered communities with heavy rain, strong winds, lightning and penny-size hail.

The aftermath was obvious almost everywhere yesterday, though much of life had returned to normal.

The 150-foot oak tree that fell on Shaun Snyder’s home on Ingomar Street in Northwest had been cut up and hauled away, but the huge tree stump, damage to the roof, a wrecked Dodge Caravan and dents to a Porsche remained as proof of the storm’s ferocity.

“What happened was traumatic,” said Mr. Snyder, 25, a recent law school graduate. He said insurance would cover the damage, but he was still waiting for the city to remove the stump.

Yet not all was getting back to normal yesterday. Maryland officials closed Seneca Creek State Park yesterday and today, except for shelter reservations, because of power outages in the 6,300-acre park. The closure includes the park’s day use area, boat center and the 90-acre Clopper Lake.

Tuesday’s storm knocked out power to about 245,000 homes and businesses in the Baltimore-Washington area, and the effort to restore it was complicated by more thunderstorms Wednesday and Saturday.

By mid-Wednesday afternoon, power companies had restored power to about 200,000 of those customers, but a late-afternoon storm increased the number without electricity to 115,000. Most had power by the weekend, but after Saturday’s storm about 3,500 still were without electricity.

At the height of the outages, about 72,000 customers in Montgomery County, about 35,000 in Prince George’s County, about 12,300 in the District and more than 41,000 in Northern Virginia were without power.

Pepco had about 250 crews working nonstop to restore downed lines since Tuesday’s storm, which Pepco officials called the worst summer storm in company history.

Dominion Virginia Power reported 1,180 outages Saturday night, with about 700 of them in Fairfax. The utility had restored power to those customers by early yesterday morning, said company spokesman Richard Zuercher.

Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), which supplies power to Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties and parts of Prince George’s County, said the power outages from the most recent storms had been restored by Saturday.

Just how well Pepco responded to the outages will be reviewed by Maryland and D.C. public service commissions. A blackout affecting more than 100,000 customers automatically triggers the reviews.

Officials at Dominion Virginia Power, which supplies electricity to most of Northern Virginia, said they will conduct an internal review.

As crews worked to remove tangled trees and fix downed power lines, they also distributed dry ice to residents to help keep food and other perishable items from spoiling.

Pepco passed out 90 tons of ice at four locations in the District and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. BGE sent out 177,000 pounds to help its customers.

The storm also delayed commuter trips with fallen trees, slowed rail service and downed power lines. Authorities closed the Capital Beltway at the peak of Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour.

At least a dozen buildings were struck by lightning Tuesday afternoon. Homes in Damascus, Rockville and Potomac were damaged by storm-related fires, and a barn in the Poolesville area burned down.

In Silver Spring, lightning hit an apartment complex on Manchester Place, starting a fire that caused $100,000 damage to three units and displacing about a dozen people. An ambulance leaving the scene was struck by a falling tree limb in the 8300 block of Piney Branch Road.

The storms also disrupted the first week of school for children throughout the area. Montgomery County was forced to shut 33 schools Wednesday and 20 remained closed Thursday. Prince George’s County, which closed 10 schools Wednesday, still had three closed Thursday.

Most schools reopened Friday.

Neither of the school systems has decided how it will make up the time. School officials said the lost days could be counted among the four snow days that each county allows each year, or they could be made up during regular classes.

Officials in Anne Arundel County, which was hit hardest by the storms, closed seven schools Wednesday.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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