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Pepco Enjoys A Bright Moment After Hurricane Sandy

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Jeff Stomel, 26, of Washington, loads his car with bottled water in an alley between U Street and Willard Street NW, where tree branches fell on cable lines and a car during Hurricane Sandy, in Washington, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jeff Stomel, 26, of Washington, loads his car with bottled water in an alley between U Street and Willard Street NW, where tree branches fell on cable lines and a car during Hurricane Sandy, in Washington, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012.

Few were under as much pressure to perform well during this week's storm as was Pepco, which in the past has struggled to return power to thousands following simple thunderstorms.

But there haven't been many problems with widespread Pepco outages in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which did not hit the D.C. region as hard as was initially forecast. 

Criticism of the utility is the harshest in Maryland's Montgomery County, where many residents went without power for several days in June after the power "derecho" storm.

So was Pepco good — or lucky? D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray didn't "know what they could have done better," he said yesterday. And Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said Pepco was good, particularly for acquiring outside help quickly.

Pepco's struggles the past two years have been well-documented, but after the derecho this summer, it seemed that hope that the utility would improve was evaporating. 

"They had sufficient warning this time, therefore they were able to bring in those assets early enough. So I want to give them credit where credit is due," he said during a press conference Tuesday. "They brought those assets in, the communication was much better. If this was luck, then I want more luck like this every time there is a storm."

In addition, the company, for once, seems to have been feeling the love from customers. 

The ever Pepco-critical Washington City Paper published a "Props to Pepco" post on its Housing Complex blog yesterday — although another writer pointed out that Pepco's accolades were really only coming due to the extremely low expectations people have of its performance. The Washington Post noted the lack of Pepco rage after Hurricane Sandy. And many others praised the utility publicly on Twitter — although most of them had a caveat ("this time") or admitted surprise at the company's relative success.

Leggett wasn't all positive in his discussion of the utility Tuesday, however. He also said that Pepco still has a long way to go in improving its infrastructure. When it does that, he said, the company can avoid the lengthy power outages that have occurred following storms that didn't give multiple days of warning.

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