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Dominion Repairs Are 'Hand-To-Hand Combat'

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A crew with Dominion Power works to clean up the mess left by the Friday night derecho that knocked out power for millions.
Jonathan Wilson
A crew with Dominion Power works to clean up the mess left by the Friday night derecho that knocked out power for millions.

Hundreds of thousands of residents in Virginia are coping without air conditioning, and some will have to wait until the weekend to have their power restored following the violent storms that knocked out power to more than 2 million people in the area.

Dominion customers are understandably impatient to have their power restored, but it takes some time, explains Dominion Virginia Power Vice President of Customer Relations Ken Barker.

"We've gone from 500,000 to 150,000 in three days, why can't we get the rest on in a couple of days? It's because of the massive effort we've got in these neighborhoods," says Barker.

On South Aberdeen St. in Arlington, for instance, a single tree felled by Friday's ferocious winds pulled down a dozen power poles, leaving 60 homes without power. Tight quarters means that heavy equipment isn't an option, and where power poles need to be replaced in a ravine, crews will have to carry them down by hand.

That's why Dominion crews may actually make slower progress over the next few days as they literally rebuild these facilities. "This work, I refer to as hand-to-hand combat," says Barker.

On South Aberdeen Street, Janine Ali watched with anticipation as Asplundh tree crews worked to untangle power lines from an oak tree that took a dozen power poles down with it as it toppled in Friday night's furious storm.

But even as she saw the progress, her mood is still largely dominated by the frustration of the the ongoing days without air conditioning. 

"I'm a little grouchy," she said.

Suzy Augustine watched nearby. Augustine says right now she does whatever she can to stay out of the house. She can't say the same for her dog, however.

"It's very warm. I live in my basement, and my poor Saint Bernard is really suffering," says Augustine. She has also been trying to sell her house — an effort that the storm brought to a complete halt.

Dominion already has 1,200 crews working to repair storm damage. Monday night, 700 more workers will arrive from Quebec. Even with the extra hands, full coverage is not expected to return until the weekend.

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