Sandy's Slam on District Leaves Little Devastation

Dorothy Rowley | 10/30/2012, 7:14 p.m.

District residents woke up Tuesday morning to downed trees, heavy rain and power outages, but were relatively unscathed by an historic storm that stretched 1,000 miles from Florida to the New York City area - where the damage was described as apocalyptically destructive.

For nearly a week prior to Hurricane Sandy slamming into the nation's capital on late Monday night, residents had been warned to prepare for a lengthy recovery that would result largely from flooding and a loss of electricity. With that in mind, many scurried to grocery stores to stock up on essentials like bread, milk and canned goods, as others headed out for batteries, candles and flashlights - and in some cases - generators.

Jay Ratcliffe, 35, manager of Lowe's in Alexandria, Va., said generators were a hot item. "As soon as we'd get in a supply, they'd be gone and we'd have to order more," he said. Ratcliffe added however, that a significant number of customers also bought hand pumps and other items to drain water due to flooding. "It wasn't so much this time about power outages, as it was concern over flooding," he said.

Schools, government offices and Metro services - which reopened Wednesday, were shuttered both Monday and Tuesday, and at one point on Monday, Amtrak halted service from Washington's Union Station to New York.

Residents concerned about casting their ballots for the Nov. 6 general election, had access to early voting this weekend. But the D.C. Board of Elections [BOEE] announced that voting sites would be closed both Monday and Tuesday due to the continuing effects of the storm.

"We want to make sure that all voters and election workers stay safe and that all facilities are prepared for use prior to our resuming early voting," BOEE Executive Director Clifford Tatum said. "We also want to remind voters that once we resume early voting, [they] may cast their ballots at any early voting site or at their polling place on November 6."

Sandy's thrust on the D.C. area occurred late Monday night with heavy rains and ferocious winds as high as 80-miles-per-hour.

Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey said that early the next morning, utility crews including more than 2,000 employees and contractors were in full damage assessment and repair mode.

"We had 3,300 District customers without service," Hainey said. "The vast majority of the outages were in Montgomery County where 11,000 customers lost power, and we had about 4,800 customers out in Prince George's County."

Hainey said that at the height of the storm on Monday, there had been 41,000 outages, and by 12 noon, Tuesday, that number had whittled to 19,000 outages in the entire region.

Dominion Virginia Power, which reported as many as 103,000 outages in Northern Virginia, and as of Tuesday, Baltimore Gas and Electric worked feverishly to restore service to186,000 customers.

Queried on how long it might take to restore power to customers in D.C., Hainey refrained from being specific. "I would not make any kind of prediction at this point," he said.

In Northwest's low-lying Bloomingdale community where residents have been subjected to flooding and sewage from previous storms, over the weekend, Department of Public Works [DPW] employees cleared leaves and other debris from the sewage system and lined up sandbags.

However, District Department of Public Works spokeswoman Linda Grant, said she wasn't aware of any significant flooding in Bloomingdale.

She said the agency was prepared to react quickly and to assist residents.

"On Monday and Tuesday, we suspended parking enforcement of meters, rush-hour and residential parking," Grant said. She added that trash and recycling collections and bulk trash collection, as well as residential street sweeping had also been suspended through Tuesday.

Overall, the storm was mild on Washingtonians in comparison to the New Jersey and New York vicinities where its worst fury was vented.

Gray, 69, said during a Tuesday, Oct. 30 press conference that the storm "thankfully turned out a whole lot better" than expected.