Already heavily polluted, the waterways can become unsafe to even touch for several days after a sewage overflow.
But given the fears before the storm arrived, elected officials said they were relieved that the local impact was relatively light.
“We were spared the worst,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). “It’s clear we were fortunate to be on the weaker side of the storm.”
Federal, state and local governments summoned people back to work Wednesday. Metro and regional transit systems planned to return to full service. School systems around the region reopened, although the District’s Jefferson Academy; Arlington’s Barcroft Elementary; Prince George’s County’s EXCEL Academy Public Charter School and Chapel Forge Early Childhood Center; and Fairfax County’s Langley High, Holmes Middle, Sleepy Hollow Elementary and Spring Hill Elementary were all closed because they had no power.
(See what’s closed and what’s open here.)
Airlines expected to resume service from the region’s three major airports, and Amtrak said it hoped to restore limited rail service Wednesday on its busy Northeast corridor.
More than 110,000 people were without power Tuesday in the District and adjoining suburbs. By 11:20 a.m. Wednesday, the number of outages was down to about 23,000: just under 19,000 in Northern Virginia, 3,500 in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and 372 in the District.
“Employees, retirees, contractors and crews from other companies are fully engaged in this effort, and work will continue around the clock until power is restored to every customer affected by this storm,” said Rodney Blevins, vice president at Dominion Virginia Power, which serves Northern Virginia.
Thomas H. Graham, Pepco’s regional president, said damage from the storm “is relatively localized.” All Pepco customers — who are spread through the District and parts of Maryland — should have power restored sometime Wednesday, he said.
Baltimore Gas and Electric, which serves Maryland suburbs to the east and northeast of the District, said it expected new outages over the next few days as trees and limbs weakened by the storm continued to fall on power lines.
“BGE is working as safely and quickly as possible to conduct its damage assessment and restore power to our customers,” Vice President Jeannette M. Mills said.
The collision of three weather elements produced what may be remembered as a tropical blizzard in Maryland and Virginia. A hurricane marched up from the warm waters of the Caribbean, to be caught in a vise between the cold jet stream descending from Canada and a chilly nor’easter from the North Atlantic.