Derecho Storm Response
Responding to Catastrophic Destruction
On June 29, the violent, fast-moving derecho storm tore through states from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic, leaving in its wake a 700-mile trail of death and destruction - including 34 fatalities and almost 4 million customers without power. Some power outages lasted well over a week. Storms affect different systems in different ways and in this case, our critical infrastructure - substations, main power lines, transformers - took a direct hit. The storm caused significant damage to our system and we were faced with rebuilding it before we could begin restoring service to our about 443,000 customers without power.
We Prioritized and Mobilized
Once the storm cleared and crews were able to safely begin damage assessment, cleanup and power restoration, they worked hard and did not stop until their job was done. Line crews and other key personnel, about 3,000 total, worked twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week - many in severe heat - to repair the damage the storm had caused. The restoration effort clocked in an estimated 300,000 man-hours, and involved replacing almost 300 utility poles and almost 200 transformers - a significant amount more than what was replaced after Hurricane Irene.
After rebuilding the essential infrastructure that was ripped apart, crews focused on restoring power to critical health and safety facilities. The storm did a lot of damage near a large nursing home in Montgomery County, and restoration required about 50 crew members, 26 bucket trucks and about a half-dozen excavators working for two days to restore service to just this one facility. On a stretch of Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda, where three nursing homes are located, 30 crew members and 20 bucket trucks were needed to restore service because two major power lines had been damaged and the wires were a tangled mess. And about 100 crew members worked to restore power to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Potomac Pumping Filtration Center, a facility necessary for providing clean drinking water and sewage services.
Even with all of the destruction, we beat our original global estimated time of restoration by two days. We restored power to 90% of customers by midnight, July 4 and our performance was in line with the response of other utilities to the storm. Restoration was complete during the early morning hours of Sunday, July 8, on which morning a report issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency stated that there were still more than 100,000 customers without power in some areas of the storm’s path.
Stronger and More Reliable
In September 2010, we committed $910 million over five years to improving our infrastructure and reliability and reducing the frequency and duration of outages. In the almost two years since we began that work, we have strengthened and improved our systems. In fact, customers served by upgraded power lines experienced a 39% reduction in the average number of power outages of normal day-to-day service during 2011 as compared to 2010, and when outages did occur, they didn’t last nearly as long, declining, on average, by 56% compared to 2010.
We are stronger and more reliable - but no overhead system could have withstood a storm of this magnitude.
Patience, Hard Work and Gratitude
Thank you to our customers who remained patient while we worked around the clock to restore service. Thank you to our emergency response partners and government officials who helped coordinate clean-up and safety efforts. Thank you to the crews who came from as far away as Canada to help, and to the workers who kept them fed and hydrated. And thank you to our dedicated line crews, customer service personnel and countless others who worked 24 hours a day until the job was done.
Our Work Continues
We will continue to enhance our reliability, work hard to restore power when storms come again, and keep our customers informed of our progress every step of the way.