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McDonnell, O'Malley impressed with utilities post-Irene

Tuesday - 8/30/2011, 3:27pm  ET

(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

Ask the Governor

Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell and Md. Gov. Martin O'Malley speak with WTOP's Mark Segraves


Meera Pal,

WASHINGTON - As the cleanup from Hurricane Irene continues, three local leaders spoke highly Tuesday of the response by the region's major utility providers -- Pepco and Dominion -- in spite of the massive outages that continue to plague residents.

Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell, Md. Gov. Martin O'Malley and D.C.'s Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Millicent West were guests on WTOP's "Ask the Governor" program.


West said the city still has 4,700 without power. The government plans to establish "commodity distribution sites" to provide supplies to those still affected.

"We are now concerned about those next steps for them and making sure we are helping them to recover," she said.

Because the outages were scattered throughout the city, West said distribution sites will be set up at various points in the city. Officials will announce locations later Tuesday. WTOP will update this information as it becomes available.

D.C. will distribute ice, water and non-perishable food items, as well as batteries and flashlights while supplies last.

"We are working to find the best locations, ones that people can get into and out of without any challenges," she said.

West said the city will improve the distribution process, following the problems at RFK Stadium during sandbag handout. Residents faced hours-long lines and confusion with people lining up in cars, as well as on foot.

"If we are going to set up any other distribution points, we will have car access, as well as pedestrian access," West said. "We will work out a system that however you get to the site you will be able to get what you need and keep on moving."

In Virginia, McDonnell said at the height, there were about 2.5 million outages statewide. Dominion has brought that number down to 450,000.

"We're making progress," McDonnell said. "(Dominion) brought in 6,000 people from around the country, along with their own resources. I know they're working 24/7 and doing a good job."

Dominion says restoration should be complete for its Northern Virginia residents Tuesday. About 75 percent of its customers should have their power back by the end of the day Wednesday. And the areas that suffered the most extreme damage will have power restored by the end of the day on Saturday.

"Ironically, the biggest impact (of power outages) was inland, and not along the coast," McDonnell said. "The heaviest rains were 50 to 60 miles inland."

Roughly 75 percent of Richmond residents were out of power following the storm.

"We prepared for the worst and we got off a little better than anticipated. We are very fortunate in that respect. We've learned a lot of lessons since 2003 with Hurricane Isabel where we were pummeled pretty badly."

In Maryland, O'Malley says the utility companies are "making steady progress."

"We are now down to 288,000 people without electricity from the height of 822,000," he said.

For a full list of outages, click here.

"I'm not going to be satisfied until everybody is back on," he said.

But, he did say that state and county officials are impressed with Pepco's "level of play and heightened effort and the speed of response compared to past events."

"We all kick Pepco around when they're not doing things well. So far, they've done an admirable job of getting as many people restored as quickly as possible. Pepco seems to be responding in a very proficient and quick way given the amount of damage."


West says residents in need of help can call 311, the District's service request center.

For the elderly or those at risk, the D.C.'s Office on Aging has people canvassing the area, checking on homebound seniors.

Residents interested in donating to relief services should contact the National Capital Chapter of Red Cross where they can direct the money to be used only for the D.C. area.

Those wanting to volunteer their services or time should contact Serve D.C., the mayor's office on volunteerism. They can be reached at 202-727-7925.

In Virginia, McDonnell said he is impressed with the people of Virginia, from the first responders to the citizens, who have stepped up and done amazing things in the past 48 to 72 hours.

Those who wish to help can "be a good neighbor. If you see people that don't have power, bring them a hot meal, ask them to stay for the night," he said.

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