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Pepco, Dominion Virginia Power, BGE work to turn lights back on after snowstorm

By Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 29, 2011; 12:05 AM

Regional power companies continued to restore service after Wednesday's snowstorm, with Pepco facing the largest number and largest portion of its affected customers still without electricity as of late Friday.

About 39,000 Pepco customers, most in Montgomery County, remained in the dark as of 11:17 p.m. Friday, the utility said.

Earlier the company had projected that it could restore power by 11 p.m. Friday to 90 percent of those who had lost it, or about 189,000 (by the company's figures).

Spokesman Bob Hainey said the company had restored power to about 170,000 of the 210,000 that had lost electricity, according to its figures. He said the utility had 1,200 people at work and would continue restoration efforts until lights were on for all customers.

In response to a Washington Post article Friday, Pepco provided additional information about the number of contract workers it says were lined up in preparation for storm damage. Pepco said that beginning Tuesday, it started to arrange for about 200 contract workers to help restore power.

Dominion Virginia Power had said it expected to have all its customers in service by midnight - an update after saying 90 percent would be back - and listed 375 out in Northern Virginia at 11:40 p.m Friday.

As of that time, Baltimore Gas and Electric had about 6,000 customers still without power and held on its Web site to its original estimates that the "vast majority" would be restored Saturday, with pockets still out Sunday. Most of the BGE customers still out were in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and the city of Baltimore.

On Friday, Pepco adjusted its Web site postings to show that parts of Montgomery County might not have power restored until 11 p.m. Sunday, which Hainey said was the company "trying to use the most conservative estimate of when we will have people back up."

David Hawkes was watching the clock Friday night after he returned to his still-dark house on Maiden Lane in Bethesda.

"I spoke with Pepco this evening, to a live person, a woman, who told me that if our power is not back on by 11:15 tonight to call them," Hawkes said.

"They can count on hearing from me," Hawkes said as he described the downed trees that still litter his neighborhood after storms that took out his power about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

His wife and three children - ages 13, 8 and 1 - have spent the day with friends but "so far we have toughed it out and stayed in the house in the evening," where the temperature stood at 47 degrees, with no fireplace as a backup, Hawkes said.

"Show me one capital city of an industrialized country where people have to move to hotels once or twice a year because their local utility provider cannot keep the power on."

That, said Hawkes, is what he would like to have Pepco hear. What does he expect to tell Pepco at 11:15 p.m. Friday?

"I bet I will be saying we are still out."

An effort was made to reach him late Friday to hear what happened, but it was not successful.

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