For those without power: Hassles, workarounds, patience and empathy

Crews arrive with replacement poles after the wind knocked down the poles in Leesburg, Virginia. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

WASHINGTON — Electricity is generally taken for granted — until it’s not there.

“Whether it’s the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, or even in beautiful temperatures, it totally disrupts your life,” said Chuck Penn, media relations manager with Dominion Energy.

Tens of thousands in the region are into day four of living without electricity in the wake of Friday’s windstorm.

“You can’t plan anything. If you’ve got school-aged children, they’re not in their normal routine, you have to worry about food spoiling in your freezer,” said Penn. “It’s just very, very disruptive.”

Penn’s empathy includes a business reality.

“We recognize that we are judged based on our ability to keep the lights on,” he said. “People understand it was an act of nature, but they still expect us to get their lights back on, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”

The rude shock of losing electricity left some customers feeling abandoned.

Penn said he understands not knowing when power will come back is frustrating.

“There is information online and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way because they don’t have access to the internet,” he said.

Penn said the utility has almost 4,000 personnel working at several thousand work sites.

“You’ve got to coordinate that personnel, do damage assessment before you send in crews,” said Penn. “There has to be a logic and safety protocol built into what you do.”

He is confident Dominion has brought in enough workers to handle the restorations. With the severity of Friday’s winds, each work project can be especially labor intensive.

“You have broken poles and crossarms, spans of wire down on the ground, trees on line, where you have to bring in a tree crew, and cut that tree up. Then you have to replace components, set the poles, restring the lines, and energize it.”

Despite knowing the long hours crews are spending restoring power, Penn asks for customers’ patience.

“Hang in there, and recognize we’re doing everything we possibly can to get everybody’s lives back to normal.”

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