Storms knock out power, leave damage in wake

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WASHINGTON – Strong storms entered the D.C. region Sunday and left power outages in their wake. The storms, which were expected to break the area’s record-breaking heat wave with a cold front from the north, left tens of thousands without power and some severe damage in Northern Virginia.

Several Severe Thunderstorm Warnings were issued early Monday morning.

The areas affected include D.C., Arlington County, City of Alexandria, Prince George’s County, Frederick County, Fauquier County and Rappahannock County.

As of 3:15 a.m. Monday, the following power outages were reported in the D.C. region:

  • Dominion: 4,989 in Northern Virginia
  • Pepco: 1,600
  • BGE: 1,273 in Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties
  • SMECO: 9
  • Rappahannock 634
  • NOVEC: 18

Total: 8,523

Dominion Power spokesman Karl Neddenien tells WTOP that immediately following Sunday afternoon’s storm, 36,000 Northern Virginia customers were without power.

“We’ve been able to lower that number to about 27,000 by remotely switching the flow of electricity to different lines that were undamaged,” he says.

Neddenien did not provide a restoration estimate, but did say Sunday’s storm was not as intense nor did it impact as many customers as last week’s derecho.

They will have restoration estimates available once they complete damage assessment, he says.

National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Lasorsa says most of the severe damage occurred across the southern suburbs of D.C., with trees uprooted and reports of half-dollar-sized hail in the Fredericksburg, Va. area.

WTOP received several photos of buildings in the Fredericksburg area with severe damage.

Lasorsa says the weather service could send out a survey team to the area.


Heat Wave

The storm from the north will bring the region back to the “normal” range for much of next week. The front has already ushered in strong thunderstorms, that have already knocked out power to thousands in other states.

Before the storms arrived in the D.C. region, the heat record for July 8 was broken just after 1 p.m. when the temperature hit 101 degrees at Reagan National Airport. The previous record for July 8 was 100 degrees.

A heat advisory is in effect until 8 p.m. There is also a Code Orange air quality alert, meaning air pollution levels could be unhealthy for sensitive groups.

The heat record for July 7 was also broken when temperatures hit 105 degrees at Reagan National Airport, breaking the previous record of 102 set on the same date in 2010.

Saturday’s high temperature also nearly tied the previous all-time record high of 106 degrees.

Sunday is the 11th straight day of temperatures above 95 degrees in the D.C. region, officially setting a local record for the longest number of consecutive days of such oppressive heat.

“The previous sequential period was eight days,” says Matthew Kramer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“There have been strings of eight consecutive days of 95 or higher. The last one was in 2002,” he says.

It was hot last July, too. But Kramer says the difference is not how hot it got, but how long it stayed that way.

In July 2011, there was a stretch of six days when temperatures topped 95, then a couple days of normal temperatures, followed by another string of four days topping 95.

Normal temperatures for July in the D.C. region are between 71 and 88 degrees, Kramer says.

The National Weather Service does not forecast weather months in advance, but Kramer says the Climate Prediction Center is calling for “better than normal chances” that temperatures will be “above normal” for the next three months.

Maryland residents looking to take shelter from the oppressive heat should head to one of the many cooling centers open Saturday. Free rides will be given to anyone in need of transportation. Call 211 to arrange pick up, and click here for a full list of cooling centers.


Forecast

MONDAY: Cooler and less humid. Partly sunny, with the chance of showers or storm. Highs in the low to mid 80s.

TUESDAY: Partly sunny with highs in the low to mid 80s. A risk of showers and thunderstorms.


Derecho Outages

Friday night marks one week since the electricity went off during that crazy storm that brought down trees and power lines, plunging 2.7 million in the Mid-Atlantic in the dark. One million of those outages were in the D.C. region.

BGE and Pepco are working on their final storm-related outages. They expect to have everyone whose power was knocked out by the storm restored on Sunday.

There are other heat-related power outages in the area. Homes and businesses without electricity should call their electric companies.

Rob Gould, vice president of Baltimore Gas and Electric, tells WTOP the remaining customers should have their power back on by Sunday. He describes the storm as “unprecedented.”

“This is almost akin to something that comes out of the blue,” Gould tells WTOP.

Pepco spokesman Clay Anderson says the remaining areas to be restored are the most labor intensive.


Conserve Electricity

Pepco is touting the fact that 99 percent of its customers now have power back.

But with many in the dark, or just getting the power back, Pepco spokesman Marcus Beal was asked on WTOP if anything could be done to “make nice” with customers who have dealt with the latest round of lengthy outages.

“I think we can make nice with the customers by closing out this last 1 percent as fast and as safely as possible. Once everyone has their power back on things can start to get back to normal,” Beal says.

Some customers may have to wait until 11 p.m. Sunday to get their power restored.

Pepco is urging people to conserve electricity. The utility predicts the system will be stressed with the high temperatures.

Here are some tips to conserve energy.


Mass Transit

Metro will let riders bring water on subway trains through Sunday


Taxis

What about taxis? Do drivers have to turn on the air conditioning? The WTOP Answer Desk says the short answer is yes.


Roads

Questions are being raised about whether the Chesapeake Bay Bridge should have been closed during the storm. Maryland will prepare an after-action report, assessing how the state responded.


Keeping Cool

Keeping cool this weekend will be key to avoid heat-related illnesses.

In Arizona, folks know how to survive scorchers like this one. They offer up some survival tips.

Across the region, cooling centers are open.

In Montgomery County, the shelter at Richard Montgomery High School has closed. The county urges residents who are seeking relief to go to public facilities such as malls, libraries or recreation centers.

Homeless individuals seeking shelter, or others in need of crisis mental health services, should call the crisis center at 240-777-4000.


Pets

People aren’t the only ones that need to keep cool. Pets need to stay cool. Watch for signs of heat stroke in dogs. An expert offers tips to keep Fido cool.


Restoration Efforts and Investigations

Everybody grumbles when the electricity goes out. How well do the utilities think they’re doing? In Maryland, the utilities have to file major storm reports with the Public Service Commission 21 days after power is restored. The PSC will determine whether any action needs to be taken, after hearing from those who lost their power.

The PSC’s review comes after the Maryland Attorney General’s office received reports of gas and hotel price gouging. In Virginia, there’s a call for an investigation into the failure of the 911 system.


Should Power Lines Be Buried?

The debate over whether electric lines should be buried comes up with every major storm. There are pros and cons to the idea.


Phones and Cable

A Verizon spokeswoman tells WTOP the company has returned 99 percent of its customers to full service.

Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and Comcast all reported outage problems.


Insurance and Tree Removal Tips

Insurance professionals say homeowners whose properties sustained damage from the storm should document it. Get multiple estimates before having repairs made. Here are more insurance and tree removal tips.

Who pays for storm damage? WTOP gets the answer from Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.


Blood Donations Needed

Hospitals have issued an emergency call for blood donations after the storm.


Food Safety

Many people who lost power had to throw out the contents of their refrigerators and freezers. Learn about what some communities are doing with spoiled food and storm debris here.


Preparing for Any Storm

Every family like this one in Alexandria has a story to tell about storm and power outage.

Part of preparing for any storm is making sure you have a stash of non-perishable foods.

Whether it’s a storm or some other type of disaster, WTOP’s Emergency Guide offers advice for every scenario. A battery-operated radio should be part of any emergency kit, as should flashlights, fresh batteries, a corded telephone, fully charged cellphone, bottled water and non-perishable foods.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)