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For Immediate Release


8:30 a.m. OUTAGE UPDATE; Most Massive Restoration Effort in Pepco's History Underway; Devastation Widespread

For Immediate Release
September 19, 2003, 8:30 a.m.


Most Massive Restoration Effort in Pepco's History Underway;
Devastation Widespread

The devastating winds and rain brought by Hurricane Isabel have caused unprecedented damage in the Pepco service area, leaving 490,000 customers without electricity. This is more than two-thirds of the company's 720,000 customers and the highest number to lose power in Pepco's history. Pepco assessments show that damage stretches across its entire service area. The thirty to forty mile per hour sustained winds, with gusts up to 65 mile per hour, uprooted countless trees and toppled power lines causing police to shut down roads throughout the region. An assessment of the damage won't be available until government officials, public safety personnel and Pepco crews are able to go out and visually survey the territory. Pepco also plans to survey the damage from the air to evaluate areas inaccessible by road. Initial estimates put the restoration time for all customers at a minimum of seven days. Pepco plans a 2:00 P.M. press conference at its headquarters to review the damage assessment and discuss the restoration process.

The immense damage prompted leaders in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey to declare a state of emergency. Federal and local governments, school systems and public transportation all closed in anticipation of the storm.

Virtually all areas of Pepco have worked diligently for nearly a week to prepare for the storm. Staff lined up crews from distant utilities, procured dry ice and arranged for distribution centers, ordered replacement poles, transformers and other electric supplies and equipment to expedite the restoration process, and trained hundreds of support personnel to handle customer calls, patrol for damage, check on downed wires, lead outside crews, and other tasks.

To protect crew safety, restoration work was suspended overnight until the high winds diminished. Crews began work at 2:00 A.M. Friday and we now have more than 700 crews at work in rotating 12 hour shifts. To help speed restoration, Pepco has assigned "mega" crews consisting of patrollers, tree crews and overhead lineman to major feeders. Today the priority will be to restore bulk transmission and public safety facilities. Additionally, countless support personnel are working behind the scenes in the most massive restoration effort in Pepco's history.

Customers lost electric service throughout the region, with 103,000 in D.C., 219,000 in Montgomery County and 168,000 in Prince George's County without power this morning. Emergency repairs were made overnight at several hospitals and crews will continue working around the clock until all customers have service restored. However, due to the extreme destruction, Pepco expects that it will be at least seven days until all customers have power restored. Pepco thanks its customers for their patience and understanding as we work to restore service in the wake of the most devastating storm ever to hit Pepco's system.

To assist customers who have lost power, beginning at 2:00 P.M. today, Pepco will be distributing 350,000 pounds of dry ice at three locations:

  • District of Columbia: RFK Stadium, Parking Lot #4, East Capitol and 22nd Streets, N.E.
  • Montgomery County: Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton, near the intersection of Veirs Mill Rd. and Georgia Ave., behind parking garage, past movie theaters, Wheaton, Md.
  • Prince George's County: Landover Mall, Route 202 and Brightseat Rd., Landover, Md.

In addition to these Pepco sites, local government agencies in each jurisdiction will operate distribution centers with dry ice supplied by Pepco. These sites and hours of operation will be announced by government agencies. Local governments also have established emergency shelters.

Customer calls are crucial to helping Pepco identify outage locations and we ask for customer cooperation in calling us to report outages even if their neighbors have already called. To report a power outage customers should call: 1-877-Pepco-62 (1-877-737-2662). As power is restored we ask customers to contact us if their neighbor's lights go on but they remain without power so we can pinpoint the location of the problem. Pepco's automated answering system is used to initially identify outage locations, and customers can be confident that their outage is reported if they use this system. However, we understand that customers may want to speak to a Pepco representative directly in this situation, and we have trained 100 additional employees to respond to customer calls, tripling the number of staff in the call center. Nevertheless, please understand that the wait times may be lengthy due to the expected high volume of calls, and Pepco appreciates customers' patience.

We first work to correct potentially life-threatening situations, such as downed live wires. We then work to restore power to the largest number of customers at one time by focusing on repairs to substations and major feeder lines. Completion of these repairs often results in restored power to thousands of customers at once. We then work to restore power to smaller groups of customers or neighborhoods. Finally, we work to restore power to individual homes and businesses. Pepco maintains contact with state and local emergency management agencies to keep them up to date on the status of restoration efforts.

This restoration process is particularly challenging because of the countless trees and branches which must first be cleared before restoration work can be done, and due to flooding of some underground equipment.

Pepco strongly encourages customers to make safety a priority. Stay away from downed power lines. All downed lines should be treated as if they are energized, and people should not approach them or touch them. If citizens see a downed wire they should call Pepco at (202) 872-3432 or local authorities and report it. Keep away from flooded areas and stay indoors. Remember, electricity and water is a dangerous combination. Even wading in a shallow puddle or flooded basement that is exposed to an energized line could cause a harmful electrical contact.

Customers who use private electrical generators in the event of a power outage should make sure those generators are not connected to Pepco's system. This will prevent generators from inadvertently feeding back into the system and posing a risk to repair crews who are working on the system and to any customers who may be exposed to downed lines. Customers should refrain from connecting generators to their home circuit breakers or fuse boxes. Private generators should be run outdoors and appliances should be connected directly to the generator by an extension cord.

Pepco is asking customers whose service has been disrupted to shut off major appliances, such as electric water heaters and air conditioners and to leave one light switch on. This will help prevent an overload once power is restored.

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About Pepco: For more than 100 years, Pepco has served the people of the Washington metropolitan area with clean, reliable and low-cost electricity. Pepco, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: POM), provides electricity transmission and distribution services to more than 700,000 customers in the District of Columbia and major portions of Prince George`s and Montgomery County in Maryland.

Point of Contact:
Robert Dobkin

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