Storm Recovery Efforts Continue Throughout Region | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Storm Recovery Efforts Continue Throughout Region

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A crew works to clear a fallen tree from power lines on S. Aberdeen Street in Arlington. 
Jonathan Wilson
A crew works to clear a fallen tree from power lines on S. Aberdeen Street in Arlington. 

The D.C. area is still working to recover from a violent storm that swept through the region Friday night, and hundreds of thousands of people are still without electricity.

The federal government and many local governments are allowing employees to take unscheduled leave or to work from home if necessary, with that option now being extended until Tuesday for federal employees. Many county governments have declared liberal leave for Tuesday as well/ Summer school in the District and summer youth employment programs that take place at school sites are cancelled. 

NBC Washington has a full list of school and official closures. Many municipalities have also reopened cooling centers, given that temperatures are once again expected to rise into the 90s, and many residents are still without electricity. In Shirlington, a pet boutique has even opened its doors as a cooling center for pets

The storm that surprised many in the region was what's called a "land hurricane," or a "derecho," NPR reports. Those numbers of people without power are still in the hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia, Maryland and D.C., although that's down from the millions that were without power earlier this weekend.

The national death total from the storm is now put at 22, after three more deaths in Virginia are now being blamed on the weather.

Restoring power

Crews are still working to both clear fallen trees and restore power, sometimes at the same sites. Pepco is expecting to have 90 percent of its customers restored by 11 p.m. Friday evening, according to Pepco spokesperson Myra Oppel. 

Pepco is hoping to be able to give individual more precise estimates as they move into different areas, according to Oppel. 

"You can't prepare for something of this magnitude," Oppel says of the severity of the storm that hit on Friday. "If you have huge trees uprooted and pull down poles and lines, there's no way to prevent that from happening. It's an act of nature."

The storm truly was nearly unprecedented, according to Dominion Power Vice President Ken Barker, who says he can't remember a thunderstorm this strong in his 35 years with the company. This relief effort is the largest the company has ever deployed in a non-hurricane situation. 

Dominion is also predicting that it will take several days to restore power to all of its customers, even with 1,200 crews on the ground, and hundreds more being shipped in from other regions to help. Many neighborhoods sport tight quarters that preclude work with heavy equipment, which only further lengthens expected repair times.

"We're making progress, but for that individual customer, it's never enough," Barker says. "We're going to be there with a cavalry to rebuild our infrastructure, and that's what we're really going to be doing in these subdivisions."

Side effects

The fallout from the storm has continued to tie up traffic throughout the region, as dozens of intersections remain without power, and therefore no traffic signals. Traffic lights are still out on stretches of U.S. Route 7 in Fairfax County and Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County.

In many other cases, power has been restored to intersections along main roads but side roads are still without working lights. Public safety officials are reminding people to treat any light that is off or blinking as a four-way stop to avoid collisions.

And the effects go beyond those related to power. Residents of Tyson's Corner, Dunn Loring, Vienna and Merrifield have been cleared to use tap water without having to boil it.

In Maryland, insurance officials are activating emergency regulations that require insurance carriers to waive timing restrictions on coverage for prescription medication renewals.

The storm knocked out 9-1-1 facilities in Northern Virginia, but according to Verizon, service has finally been restored.

D.C. residents who had food spoil thanks to a loss of power are allowed to drop it off at six city schools, including Lasalle-Backus Elementary, Wilson High School and Garfield Elementary, instead of waiting for scheduled pickups days.

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