- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Utility companies are scrambling to turn the heat and the lights back on for the estimated 120,000 customers in the region who lost electricity during the frigid winter storm that hit the region overnight and covered streets — and power lines — with a slick coat of ice.

Company officials said they will not know the extent of the outages until later this afternoon.

However, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties appear the hardest hit, with more than 71,000 and 39,000 outages, respectively.

There are heavy outages reported along the Route 50 corridor and along Route 3, from roughly Annapolis to Glen Burnie.

Most of the outages are the result of the heavy ice, as thick as a half-inch in some areas, that toppled tree limbs and branches onto power lines.

Pepco, which covers the District, Montgomery County and most of Prince George’s County, reports about 18,000 outages. The District had fewer than 30 outages.

Company spokesman Robert Dobkin said outages were reported as early as 4 a.m. and that the situation could be much worse.

“We were very fortunate this morning,” he said.

Company spokeswoman Mary-Beth Hutchinson said last night that a quarter-inch of ice in enough to down trees and that Pepco has “the most heavily treed electrical system in the U.S.” She also said the company has assigned crews to round-the-clock shifts and has brought in additional contract crews.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., which covers most of central Maryland, has the most outages, about 91,000. The company also uses contractors, and spokeswoman Linda Foy said it requested assistance from other local power companies.

Dominion Power reports 26,000 outages, including 5,000 in Northern Virginia.

“We’re restoring the power as quickly as it is safely possible,” spokesman Karl Neddenien said.

However, more outages are expected later this afternoon when the tail-end of the storm — a nor’easter that swept up the coast and gathered warm, moist air — will bring expected wind gusts of 40 mph.

The storm also brought about 2 inches of snow, which closed offices and most school districts in the region.

Still, the ice storm was not nearly as bad as the one in January 1999 that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of residents in the region.

Washington Dulles International Airport, which had closed because of the winter storm, says it has opened one runway.

Flights already had resumed this morning at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after a shutdown. Airports authority spokeswoman Tara Hamilton says ground crews have cleared Reagan National’s main runway and taxiways.

Dulles, located in Chantilly, opened one runway about 12:30 p.m. And workers were continuing to treat two additional runways to accommodate flights later today.

Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport in Linthicum has been open today, but travelers should check with their airlines to determine if their flights are on schedule.

Many airlines serving the greater Washington area continuing to cancel or delay flights because of the bad weather in the Midwest and at airline hubs along the East Coast.

For up-to-the minute traffic conditions, check the following Web sites:

Maryland roads

Virginia roads

District roads.

This article includes wire reports

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