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Pepco Completes Full Restoration of Customers Impacted by Derecho

Sunday, July 08, 2012

300,000 crew man-hours estimated, 3,000 personnel mobilized for eight-day restoration
19,000 cases of water and energy drinks supplied to keep crews hydrated

260 poles, 170 transformers delivered— more than Hurricanes Isabel or Irene

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Overnight, Pepco completed restoration to the final few customers without power as a result of the violent and destructive storm that struck the Washington region on Friday, June 29.  At peak, the utility had more than 443,000 customers without service.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the storm left more than 3.8 million customers without power throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.  A report issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Sunday morning, July 8, states that more than 146,000 customers remain without power due to the derecho.  FEMA attributes 34 fatalities to the storm and reports that overnight more than 30 overnight mass care shelters were open in five states as citizens continue to cope with derecho’s aftermath.  Because of the storm’s devastating impact, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio all declared a state of emergency.

With the support of about 3,000 total personnel, Pepco worked full force, around the clock, to restore the vast majority of customers without power in the Washington, D.C., region by Wednesday, July 4.  A number of outages persisted into the weekend due to heavy localized tree damage that impeded progress and made repairs more challenging. 

To execute repairs, Pepco’s Materials department issued crews about 260 electric poles and 170 transformers, which is considerably more than was needed for restoration after either Hurricane Isabel or Irene.

An estimated 300,000 man-hours were expended to restore customers, including call center support.  Pepco secured about 1,000 hotel rooms to house field crews over an eight-day period, arranged more than  53,000 meals and issued about 10,000 cases of water and 9,000 cases of energy drinks to keep crews sufficiently hydrated during the high heat the region experienced last week.  In addition, the company supplied about 376,000 pounds of ice to crew members to combat heat.

“The derecho storm was by many accounts the most destructive to hit the Mid-Atlantic region since Hurricane Isabel nearly a decade ago.  Restoring service has been a mammoth effort involving about 3,000 Pepco and external personnel with reinforcements from as far away as Canada, Oklahoma and Florida,” said Thomas H. Graham, Pepco Region President. “We appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers who had to cope with outages during record-breaking heat. We thank all personnel dedicated to the restoration effort, our partners at the emergency management agencies who provided critical relief coordination and support, and government officials and the media who assisted with communicating to our valued customers.”

Damage Recap
The June 29 derecho struck the mid-Atlantic area with wind gusts in excess of 70 miles per hour.  The high winds toppled and split trees, knocked down power lines and poles, crushed cars and homes, blocked intersections and generally wrought unprecedented damage to Pepco’s electric system infrastructure. 

At its peak, the storm left more than 443,000 Pepco customers without power. In the District of Columbia, about 64,000 customers were without power at peak; in Montgomery County, Md., 238,000 customers; and in Prince George’s County, 141,000.

Pepco’s Response
Although the derecho storm provided little warning, in preparation for possible weekend thunderstorms, Pepco activated its emergency incident response plan early on Friday, June 29, holding over line crews, securing local contractors, activating its Pepco emergency response personnel and reviewing material inventories.   By 6 a.m., Saturday, June 30, all Pepco employees were on deck, outside reinforcements were being aggressively recruited and a comprehensive damage assessment and initial restoration effort begun.  By Monday, 700 outside crew members had arrived to support the restoration effort. That number would grow to more than 800 for a total force of about 2,000 Pepco, local contractor and out-of-state field crew members. These crews remained hard at work through the following weekend.

Including support personnel, Pepco had a total of more than 3,000 resources dedicated to the restoration effort.

To help process incoming crews and strategically distribute materials, two staging areas were up and running by Saturday afternoon, June 30—one at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and another at the Capital Plaza Shopping Center in Prince George’s County.  In addition, the company activated its regional storm centers to more effectively dispatch crews to local outages.

To keep customers informed, Pepco proactively updated Twitter, Facebook, the mobile outage reporting and tracking application, and the website, which experienced an increase of traffic of 1,600 percent; answered more than 575,000 customer phone calls; issued continual press updates; held press conferences; conducted countless media interviews; and held daily conference calls with government officials.

Pepco personnel staffed the state and local emergency management agencies and emergency operations centers and the company was in constant contact with fire departments and departments of transportation to ensure a coordinated community response.

Post-Restoration Follow-Up
The high heat forecast for the remainder of the weekend, combined with existing storm-related damage to the electric system and high demand for electricity may cause additional outages.  Pepco asks customers to continue conserving electricity.

The following tips will help customers reduce their energy use:

  • During hot weather, a central air conditioner can account for 30 percent of a customer’s energy bill. Pepco suggests checking the air filter regularly – a clean air filter improves system efficiency, which should lead to energy savings.
  • Set your thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit, a reasonably comfortable and energy-efficient indoor temperature.
  • Have a professional check your air conditioning system to ensure that it works properly and is not leaking coolant.
  • Be sure all windows are shut and outside doors are closed when the air conditioning is on.
  • It is important not to have lamps, televisions or other heat sources close to the air conditioner thermostat.  Heat from these sources may cause the air conditioner unit to run longer than it should.
  • Check to ensure that no furniture or other obstacles are blocking ducts or fans. This will enable cooled air to circulate freely, making your home more comfortable.

To learn more, visit www.pepco.com/energy/conservation/.

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Pepco, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: POM), delivers safe, reliable and affordable electric service to more than 788,000 customers in Maryland and the District of Columbia.