- Associated Press - Monday, July 26, 2010

It could take days to restore power to hundreds of thousands of people in and around Washington after a storm downed power lines and trees and left four people dead, officials said Monday.

The Sunday storm brought cooler weather to the mid-Atlantic region, which has been through a nearly two-week heat wave, but also left widespread damage in Washington and its suburbs. Power outages resulting from the storm affected more than 430,000 customers. Officials said they hadn’t had a similar large outage since those in the wake of Hurricane Isabel in 2003, when flooding and fallen trees caused even more massive outages and some customers went a week or more without power.

On Monday, regional utility Pepco reported more than 232,000 customers were still without power in Washington and neighboring Maryland counties. Because the damage was so widespread, it was unclear when most people would get their power back, Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey said. Major power lines were down, electric poles were broken, and numerous transformers were damaged, he said.

“This is going to be a multiple-day event,” Mr. Hainey said.

Other electric companies in the region predicted power would be mostly restored by Monday or Tuesday night.

Three deaths in Maryland were blamed on the storm. Officials say Warren Douglas Smith, 63, was using a personal watercraft on the Chesapeake Bay and died after encountering severe winds and choppy seas while trying to get back to land. In Beltsville, Md., a tree crushed a minivan, killing driver Michelle Humanick, 44, and injuring her passenger, a woman in her 60s. A 6-year-old boy also died after a large section of a tree fell on him while he was walking with his family.

In Pennsylvania, police say a 53-year-old woman was apparently electrocuted by a fallen power line in her backyard.

Even as cleanup was going on, the power outages were causing disruptions. Many traffic signals were out throughout the region, including some along major routes. In Fairfax County, fire department spokesman Daniel Schmidt said county firefighters responded to 22 fires in the storm’s aftermath, and he attributed nine car accidents to the storm.

Prince George’s County fire spokesman Mark Brady blamed darkened traffic signals for about a dozen car crashes. In the most severe accident, two people were transported to a hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries, he said.

Some counties closed summer camps and government offices they said couldn’t operate without power.

In Washington, officials said there were more than 270 reports of fallen trees or very large limbs and parts of trees that caused damage. Fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said about half a dozen homes were significantly damaged by falling limbs, and 10 boats overturned in the rivers that border the city. Three cars caught fire as a result of downed power lines.

“The dust is settling, and we’re extremely busy,” Mr. Piringer said.

Mike Allen, 22, was in the attic of his mother’s home in Northwest Washington during the storm when he heard a loud boom. A three-story-tall tree had fallen, uprooting a power pole, blocking the home’s front entrance and opening a crack in an attic wall.

“There are a lot of streets in the neighborhood where a similar thing has happened,” he said. “It’s pretty wacky.”

Officials warned residents to be careful of downed lines as crews continued to restore power. Baltimore Gas & Electric said a total of 112,000 customers lost power as a result of the storm. The utility expected power to be restored by Tuesday evening. Dominion Virginia Power reported 94,000 customers were without power at the peak of the storm. The power company said it expected to have most of the power back on by early Tuesday.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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