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Mess with Washington at your own peril, Hurricane Earl

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By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Come on, Hurricane Earl, take your best shot.

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Brush up against us; make high clouds over Washington. We don't much like weather around these parts. And if you so much as send a band of tropical rain our way, we'll go grocery shopping on you.

We mean business, Earl.

Ever heard of Storm Tracker, Live Super Doppler, MaxTrack and Doppler 2 Radar Loop? That's how we know it's weather. And we'll be ready.

Ever heard of Pepco? Forget everything you heard, then. Especially what Maryland House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) said at a hearing Monday on the utility's most recent screw-ups: "I have relatives in Mumbai who cannot believe how often we lose power."

That is so unfair. Mumbai uses thermal, gas and hydro power to make electricity. Pepco uses what -- hamsters on a treadmill?

And don't pay attention to what Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said, either: "Some similar issues were raised in 2003 after Hurricane Isabel. There were a number of recommendations then, some of which were enacted and some of which were not."

The issues were first raised during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 -- and, boy, were they addressed.

"We are now spending more money on information technology, like smart relays," a Pepco spokesman said in the aftermath of Floyd, which, having been downgraded to a mere tropical storm, delivered a "glancing blow" that still managed to leave tens of thousands without power. "Customers have told us they wanted to make reporting power outages more convenient."

See, customers told them. And now -- a little more than a decade later, that's all -- Pepco is saying: We hear you. Must have been those downed telephone lines. But it's all good now.

Pepco recently announced that it had developed a "six-point reliability enhancement plan," complete with "new initiatives" and "new activities" that will significantly reduce those annoying power outages.

"This is not just Pepco's plan, it's the community's plan," said Thomas H. Graham, Pepco's regional president. "Pepco realizes that reliability enhancement is a critical issue for our customers."


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