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Posted at 11:43 AM ET, 07/05/2012

D.C. Storm aftermath: Live blog

Follow live updates on the latest news about the D.C. storm and its aftermath.



8:01 p.m. Number of heat-related deaths in Maryland increasing

Maryland has added four more heat-related deaths since its Tuesday report, bringing the total to eight.

Four of those deaths were in the city of Baltimore; two were in Montgomery; and one each were in Baltimore and Wicomico counties.


6:30 p.m. Debris pick-up schedule updates

Clean-up efforts after last week’s storm are prompting schedule changes in some of the region’s suburbs.


A tree-removal worker begins another long day in Silver Spring on July 4, 2012. (Gary Cameron - Reuters)
Montgomery’s transportation department will send out crews along all 217 of the area’s snow routes to pick up tree debris, starting July 11.

Also, officials in Falls Church announced Thursday that the city will be waiving fees for brush and trash collection until July 12.


6 p.m. Dominion Power promises full restoration by Friday night

Dominion Power has vowed to its Northern Virginia customers that power will be fully restored by Friday night.

According to its Web site, 4,959 of the company’s 831,000-plus customers are without power.


5 p.m. Heat, storm aftermath send many to hospital ERs

Among those who have been particularly hard hit by the stifling heat in their out-of-power residences are the elderly. Hospitals around the region said their emergency rooms were treating elderly patients who live at home alone without relatives in the area, and who use oxygen machines that rely on electricity to run. At Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., the hospital set a record over last weekend, immediately after the storm, for the most patients ever seen in a 48-hour period in its emergency department, a spokeswoman said Thursday. Suburban treated 150 patients each day between Saturday and Monday, with a significant number of patients with symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Many were elderly, some from area nursing homes that had lost power. Others had gone to the hospital because their own primary care doctors’ offices were closed because of the power outage. Since then, the numbers have dropped a bit, but the emergency department was still treating more than 100 cases Tuesday and Wednesday.

“They’ve just been slammed,” said hospital spokeswoman Susan Laine. On Thursday afternoon, there were about 20 people in the waiting room, she said.

Since the heaviest crush on the weekend, about 50 percent of the cases at Suburban have been heat-related — dehydration, shortness of breath, headaches, she said. But the hospital is also seeing injuries from tripping and falling, possibly from people cleaning up storm debris in their yards. Elderly patients are still showing up at the ER who do not have power for their oxygen or other life-saving equipment, she said. The majority of cases were from private residences, but hospital officials said there may still be nursing homes that do not have power.

Suburban’s pediatrics emergency department has also had an increase in patients because parents have been unable to go to pediatrician’s offices to get asthma treatments for their children, she said.

Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring has also had a moderate number of heat-related cases, between 10 and 20, a spokeswoman said.

At MedStar Georgetown Hospital, the emergency department is continuing to have about a 20 percent daily bump in visits. Mostly people are dizzy, have fainted, or feel like they’re going to faint. Patients include those who lost power with heat-related illnesses, as well as some tourists, a spokeswoman said.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center, in northwest Washington, had a 15 to 30 percent increase on Monday and Tuesday but the number of visits has fallen since then. Many patients were without power and the heat aggravated their chronic conditions, spokesman Matt Brock said. The hospital had to set aside public space for some patients who were ready to be discharged but couldn’t return home because of a lack of power. The hospital helped find them a cooling center or relatives. By Thursday, the hospital was reporting the visits were back to normal, about 40 patients.

At Inova Fairfax Hospital, in addition to the elderly who rely on life-saving equipment in their homes, the emergency room has also seen an uptick in trauma from car accidents and injuries from cleanup of fallen trees.

— Lena Sun


4 p.m. One woman’s story: “... the live wire is still there ...”

Christina M. Hartman sent us the following account:

My husband and I live in Bethesda. We had a tree come down and swipe the side of our house during the storm last Friday night.
The tree hit our service entry cable and took down the wire that connects the house to the main power line.  We had the service entry cable repaired by an electrician.  The live wire that connects the house to the main power line is still, almost a full week later, wrapped around the tree that went down.  That live wire is Pepco's responsibility to fix.
The electrician that came to our house today to repair our service entry cable was very concerned that the live wire is still there, waiting for someone to be electrocuted or to burn our house or a neighbor's down.
I called Pepco to ask (for the nth time) when they thought the wire would be dealt with and our power restored, and they gave me an estimate of Sunday at 11 pm.  They did not have a good reason for why, almost a full week later, no one has had a chance to deal with a live wire.  I'm wondering how many live wires are still out there.
I am also concerned that it was not until this morning (and I have been calling every day), that someone at Pepco was able to tell us that the service entry cable was our responsibility to have fixed.  Luckily I was able to find an electrician immediately, and that is already fixed.
My husband and I have an 8-month-old baby, and were able to escape the city by going north to her grandmother's house.  Otherwise, this heat wave could have been devastating to her health. 
When we return, we have no idea if we’ll have to try to find a hotel to keep her cool, or if we’ll be able to sleep in the basement. I do not think that anything will change as long as Pepco remains a monopoly and given how grave this situation could have been for our family, if we had not had a place to stay with our infant during this extreme heat wave, resolving this issue remains high on our priority list.

2:40 p.m. Contractor says Pepco should allow meter devices

Jim Markham, an electrical contractor from Montgomery County, says he thinks Pepco should be loaning out something called an automatic transfer switch to people without power. Once an electric meter is removed from its socket, this device provides a receptacle that a generator can be plugged into. Pepco owns these devices, he says, but will not offer them to the public. Markham said they represent a safer way to hook up a back-up generator. Pepco also prohibits even licensed electricians from installing them, he says. Indeed, Pepco has a policy of turning off customers’ power current if contractors — during normal circumstances and repairs — break the seal on a meter without informing the company, he says.

Meanwhile, Elaine Weiner, who lives between Silver Spring and Wheaton in the Kemp Mill subdivision, still has no power. “I understand that PEPCO will be applying for a rate increase,” she writes in an e-mail. “Public opinion in this area concerning their outrageously poor performance in restoring power over the years seems to be reaching a boiling point (pun intended). We have had no power for five days. This is not new behavior on their part.”


2:10 p.m. Meanwhile, power problems of a different sort

For the past six days, Christopher Alan Chambers’s Hyundai Elantra sat outside his Northwest D.C. home as the heat climbed to record temperatures. Neither Chambers nor his wife ever cracked a window in the vehicle during the time, nor parked it near a tree for shade. Then, on Thursday morning, when the two opened the driver- and passenger-side doors, they were startled by a loud crash; the back window of their year-old car had shattered, sending pieces of glass across the back seat.

Chambers, a media studies professor at Georgetown University, contacted his insurance company, who informed him that they are seeing an increase in such claims as car owners forget to crack their windows in this record-setting heat, resulting in rising temperature pressure inside the vehicle, which could result in a cracked or shattered windows when the temperature changes suddenly as result of an opened door or window.

Chambers said he and his wife carefully sifted through the glass for a rock, tree branch, bullet or even a fire cracker to see whether the window was hit by anything. They didn’t find anything.

“When we opened the door ... the whole thing just fell,” he said. “It was like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. We looked like Wile E. Coyote wondering what the hell just happened.”

Chambers said he has heard of car owners in Arizona and other areas where the temperature regularly climbs into triple digits, cracking their windows to avoid such damage. “But you don’t think you have to do that here,” he said.

— Keith L. Alexander


1:30 p.m. Free Internet and phone services to Alexandria residents

Verizon released the following statement today: “On Thursday, July 5, Verizon will provide free, worldwide Internet and telephone services to Alexandria residents experiencing extended power, telephone and Internet outages as a result of the June 29 severe storms. These services will be provided in an air-conditioned mobile unit that will be parked at T.C. William High School, 3330 King St., from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Residents can use public transit to get to T.C. Williams High School by riding the AT5 or AT6 DASH Bus routes. These services are being provided by Verizon as a courtesy to City residents so those without power, telephone or Internet services may be able to escape the heat, charge their devices, make telephone calls, and connect to the Internet.”


12:01 p.m. Six days after the storm, outages dip below 30,000

Six days after Friday night’s “derecho” clobbered the Washington region, toppling hundreds of trees and downing power lines in the District, Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs, the number of homes without power has now dropped below 30,000.

Progress has been slow, but don’t forget, in the storm’s immediate aftermath, the number exceeded 1 million.

As of 12:01 p.m., Pepco was reporting 18,323 customers without electricity, with 916 out in D.C., 322 in Prince George’s County and 17,085 in Montgomery County. Dominion reported 9,484 without power in Northern Virginia, and Baltimore Gas & Electric was reporting 1,988 without power in Prince George’s.

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell issued the following statement:

“Virginia continues to recover from last week’s historic storms. Because of the hard work of emergency responders from both the public and private sectors, power is being restored to residents who have endured outages since the storms. Additional crews are being brought in from other states to speed recovery efforts. With record temperatures continuing to slow response, and making power outages even more difficult to endure, the Commonwealth is working closely with power companies and is offering all available state resources to speed response wherever and however possible. In the meantime, as this hot weather continues without immediate relief in sight, citizens need to protect themselves from the high temperatures we are experiencing and help their neighbors. I ask all Virginians to please continue to look out for one another as we continue to get power restored and damage cleaned up. This recovery effort depends upon all Virginians working together.”


11:32 a.m. Pepco says crews on the ground, but power still out

Nathan Blain, who lives at 8606 Irvington Ave. in Bethesda, reports that he is still without power, even though he had been informed by Pepco that his power had been restored. He says Pepco has reported that there are crews “on the ground,” but he hasn’t seen any in his neighborhood.


11:20 a.m. Welcome to the live blog

Like we’ve done earlier this week, we’ll be bringing you the latest news on this live blog. Check back for more on the latest outage numbers, event cancellations and more.

But first, catch up on some news you might’ve missed:

Power company worker dies in Va. crash (http://wapo.st/O9o8Ym)

McCartney: Think you’re mad at Pepco? Wait until you hear this (http://wapo.st/Ou6h1R)

New outage numbers every 10 minutes (http://wapo.st/LfV71V )

By Washington Post Staff  |  11:43 AM ET, 07/05/2012

 
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