Acquiring sandbags, electrical generators, provisions and flashlights was the order of the day, and people moved double-time through stores as employees raced to restock shelves. In the District, a line of cars wrapped around the corner of New Jersey Avenue as dozens of people waited to pick up sand bags near the Navy Yard Metro station.
The weekend’s planned events were a washout, with most Saturday events canceled, as well as virtually everything on Sunday. The dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the D.C. Rally for Full Democracy and the National Action Network March scheduled for this weekend were called off.
Some events — like the opening of college dorms — were moved up to Friday to get ahead of the storm. Plans were made to transfer the last remaining patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center by ambulance to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda on Saturday morning, one day ahead of schedule.
Doctors alerted women who are due to give birth in the next week or so to have their hospital bags packed a little early. The drop in barometric pressure associated with the hurricane could cause a woman’s water to break early. Hospital officials said they are aware that lowering of atmospheric pressure tends to result in a spike in births.
“It’s along the same line as what happens when there’s a full moon,” said Matt Brock, a spokesman for Washington Hospital Center.
Pepco officials urged patience as they anticipate a “widespread” and “multi-day” power outage as Hurricane Irene approaches a region in which the company has 778,000 customers in the District and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
“This is a huge event,” said Joe Rigby, chief executive of Pepco’s parent company, Pepco Holdings.
Rigby said the company has 150 out-of-state workers inbound to help a beefed up staff of about 815 Pepco employees and pool of contractors that have been in the area for several months helping with tree trimming and repairs as part of a multimillion-dollar plan to improve service. By Sunday, there should be about 1,300 people working on power restoration in the Washington area, Rigby said.
Rigby and Thomas Graham, Pepco Region president, said the call centers that respond to customers can handle double the capacity of a year ago.
Dominion Virginia Power, which serves North Carolina and Virginia regions, has been tracking the hurricane for more than a week and expects Norfolk, Virginia Beach and eastern North Carolina areas to feel the greatest impact from the storm.
Baltimore Gas and Electric said Friday that central Maryland should anticipate widespread power outages lasting several days starting Saturday afternoon or evening, leaving an estimated 500,000 without power.