- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

About 70,000 customers lost power during Monday night’s rainstorms, hampering utility companies’ efforts to restore service to more than 1 million customers still powerless from last week’s Hurricane Isabel.

With hundreds of crews working 12-hour shifts, utility officials said they expect to have power restored to all their customers by Friday. Weather forecasts calling for no appreciable rainfall for the rest of the week should help the restoration effort, they said.

But many power-deprived customers have become irate about how long it is taking to get their electric service restored. In addition, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, have called for hearings on the utility companies’ response after things have returned to normal.

“Allowing Pepco [Potomac Electric Power Co.] to get away with this is unacceptable,” said Northwest resident Janet L. McElligott, 42, whose home in the 1400 block of Foxhall Road has been without power since 2 p.m. Thursday. “This is negligence.”



In Isabel’s immediate aftermath early Friday, Pepco reported 531,000 customers without power, Baltimore Gas and Electric had 650,000 and Dominion Virginia Power noted 1.8 million.

Before Monday’s storms, Pepco reported 194,000 of its 720,000 customers in the District and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties still without power. BGE, which serves more than 1.1 million customers in central Maryland and Baltimore, had 124,000 powerless customers. Dominion Virginia, which provides electricity for 2 million customers in the state and in North Carolina, had 758,000 customers without power.

After Monday’s storms, Pepco had 152,000 powerless customers, BGE 238,000 and Dominion Virginia 762,000.

By 6 p.m. yesterday, Pepco reported 98,000 without electricity, BGE had 117,000 and Dominion Virginia had nearly 600,000.

“We know people have lost patience, but we ask for their understanding,” Pepco President William J. Sim said yesterday during a news conference. “We have 900 crews working. They are working 12-hour shifts.

“They have restored power to 400,000 in four days. That is a phenomenal amount of work. … The damage is everywhere. … We’ll have almost 1,000 crews in here tomorrow.”

Mr. Van Hollen met with Mr. Sim yesterday about holding a “regionwide” meeting about storm repairs.

“I did believe they needed to do a better job of informing people when they are going to be working in their areas,” Mr. Van Hollen said of utilities’ power-restoration efforts.

As power is restored to more communities, Pepco will be able to begin informing residents about when they can expect work crews to be in stricken areas, Mr. Sim said.

“We will analyze after this is all over, but I think we are doing well,” Mr. Sim said in the press conference. “We have great relationships with Montgomery County, Prince George’s and the District.”

After restoring power to emergency stations, like hospitals and water plants, crews go to work on power lines from generating plants, then from power substations, then from lateral lines and feeder lines to communities. That means that crews may out of sight of communities whose power will soon be restored, Mr. Sim said.

Monday night, about 30 Chevy Chase residents met with Pepco Vice President Ted Trabue because his home had electricity while his neighbors were without power.

“He got a lot of questions,” said Anne Renshaw, chairwoman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, whose Military Road home has been “more off than on” with power since 9:35 p.m. Thursday.

“He did a stand-up job,” Ms. Renshaw said of Mr. Trabue’s explanation of the power grid system, which may leave power to one home but cut power to other nearby homes. “We suffered for several days after the 1998 storm but it was nothing like this.”

The outage territory included facilities for senior citizens, Shoemaker Home and Ingleside at Rock Creek, “where [the] elderly are sitting in darkened rooms,” Ms. Renshaw said.

S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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