As the winds subsided on Sunday, the utility succeeded in restoring power within 24 hours to 140,000 of the 220,000 affected customers. Fewer homes served by Pepco in the District and Maryland suburbs lost power than did those served by neighboring power companies.
On the customer relations front, Pepco worked hard to communicate and manage expectations, making automated telephone calls to 640,000 customers before the storm to warn that outages were likely.
Despite all that, Pepco officials acknowledged that beyond a single storm, they have long-term work to do to rebuild goodwill.
“It was a test, but we have to leave it up to the customers to determine whether we’ve passed,” said Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey. “When you’re still running the race, you can’t say you’ve won. But so far, for the most part, it seems like people are saying we’re on the right track.”
Pepco expects to restore service to all customers by Thursday evening. As of 9:30 p.m. Monday, Pepco was reporting 33,887 outages, almost half of them in Prince George’s County. Dominion Virginia reported 448,115 outages, including 5,762 in Northern Virginia. And in the hard-hit Baltimore region, BGE was reporting 295,074 outages.
Experts said only time will tell whether Pepco actually has improved, or just caught a lucky break.
Many key statistics regarding power company performance will remain unavailable for weeks, as restoration work continues. Moreover, storm intensity varies among neighborhoods — even block to block — making immediate comparisons among power companies difficult.
Pepco and neighboring companies will be filing detailed reports with regulators in about three weeks, said Paula Carmody, who represents consumers as head of Maryland’s Office of People’s Counsel. That will allow a more careful analysis of the causes of outages and the aggressiveness of the companies’ response.
“You do have to be careful,” Carmody said. “We don’t know the root causes of these various outages yet. A bare comparison of the fact that BGE had more outages doesn’t, in and of itself, tell you anything.”
Meanwhile, in Virginia Beach, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Monday expressed condolences to the families of four Virginians who died from storm-related causes and many more who incurred property damage.
The governor, flanked by members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, said the state would aggressively push the federal government for a major disaster declaration that would allow Virginia to receive federal funds to help pay for damage caused by the storm. President Obama has already issued an emergency declaration to help defray the costs of taking steps to protect against a natural disaster.