WASHINGTON – As winds and rain intensify throughout the region, officials are warning residents to expect prolonged power outages that could last several days.
“We are going to see more trees knocked down and more power lines knocked down in this storm than we saw even in the derecho,” says Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. “This is very intense. This is a killer storm.”
Speaking at a news conference Monday afternoon, President Barack Obama asked for the public’s patience as Hurricane Sandy threatens to debilitate the East Coast.
“This is going to take a long time for us to clean up,” he said.
But “the great thing about America is that when we go through tough times like this we all pull together.”
Utility companies spent the weekend getting ready for Sandy, calling in back-up crews and reaching out to customers. The message was simple: stay inside and be prepared.
“Pull out that winter sweater you haven’t put on since March or April, find those wool blankets because the power, when it goes out, and unfortunately it will go out … we’re going to have to hunker down as a community and try to stay warm,” says Pepco spokesperson Clay Anderson.
Meteorologists are predicting up to 8 inches of rain over the next couple of days with wind gusts reaching up to 75 mph. This combination will impede utility crews from repairing downed power lines.
“It is going to be another multi-day event,” Anderson says. “Our crews will not be able to be up in the air once with winds once they exceed 35 to 40 mph. That’s a safety issue.”
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell warns residents to stay up-to-date with shelter information and avoid driving if possible.
“Be in contact with friends and neighbors to know where you can go … and be patient,” he says. “Stay off the roads. Be good neighbors.”
Unlike previous storms that took the East Coast by surprise, officials have had several days to prepare for this hurricane. D.C., Maryland and Virginia declared states of emergency Friday. Obama signed an emergency declaration over the weekend for parts of the region, including D.C. and Maryland. Virginia asked for a federal emergency declaration on Monday, which will require Obama’s signature as well.
Electric companies also went on the defensive. Baltimore Gas and Electric put in a request for 3,000 out-of-state crews and 1,600 have already arrived, says spokesman Rob Gould. Pepco and Dominion Power have also called in reinforcements.
“One of the lessons we learned from [Hurricane] Irene is that you need to have … help in place when you have a large outage,” Anderson says. “So we brought in crews from Alabama [and] Louisiana.”
Despite the early precautions, restoration won’t likely start until late Tuesday into Wednesday, he says.
For a full, printable list of phone numbers to area utility and cable companies, follow this link.