It's hard to believe that less than a week after experiencing an earthquake, our region is now bracing for Hurricane Irene under a Tropical Storm Warning. If you haven't already, I hope that you will take some time before Irene's arrival to make sure you and your family are prepared for what is likely to be a tremendous weather event. I am sharing these thoughts with you as of 3:30 PM on Friday, and we obviously don't know the extent to which our region will bear the brunt of this storm. But I would rather you be more prepared than not prepared enough.
Of principal concern of course is power. The combination of a weak distribution system and a strong storm is not good. With the expectation that trees will be down throughout our region, Pepco is already forecasting a "multi-day outage event." While I have been a strong critic of Pepco -- that it allowed its system to degrade to this state is simply unacceptable -- I do believe that they are taking appropriate measures to prepare for this storm. They have called in more crews than at any time in recent history from Ohio and other areas to try to reduce the length of time we experience outages. They also have said that they have made improvements in being able to take calls and communicate with you. I certainly hope this is the case. You will find information from them below, along with other information I hope is useful to you.
At the moment, I am driving home from Ohio. Earlier today, I happened to catch this first-hand glimpse of tree crews driving east on I-70 in the direction of our region: a sure sign that resources are being deployed and coming our way.
Tree Crews Heading East on I-70
Please be safe this weekend, and, if you're able, check in on neighbors and friends as well. As information could change quickly after distribution of this message, I hope that you will register for Alert Montgomery, which will send updates to cell phones or email accounts as information becomes available.
Yesterday, Pepco distributed this press release which discusses their efforts to prepare for Hurricane Irene. Among them, the utility has ramped up their call center so that it maintains 24-hour coverage beginning today. In the past, I know that it has been a frustrating task to get in touch with Pepco; I am hoping that this time, it will be different.
Pepco's line crews will work extended hours during what the company is already calling a "multi-day restoration effort", as they expect that high winds will cause significant outages. Pepco leadership shared this morning that they have already secured hundreds of mutual assistance crews that comprise a complement of resources that is unprecedented for Pepco.
To report an outage, call Pepco at 1-877-PEPCO-62 and press "1". Pepco asks that even if you think a neighbor has already reported your street as experiencing an outage, that you still call to report your home as out also. If you have access to the Internet, you can report outages at Pepco's website. They now have an app to report outages, available for free at the App Store. (The iPhone expert on my staff expects that this app could really simplify the process of reporting an outage, and, if Pepco has the information available, also simplify checking back on the status of outages.)
To report a downed wire, call Pepco at 1-877-PEPCO-62 and press "2". Of course, never go near any downed wires.
Pepco is urging its customers to take the following precautions, among others, in advance of the storm:
-Assemble an emergency "storm kit". Include a battery-powered radio or television, flashlight, a first-aid kit, battery-powered or windup clock, extra batteries, special needs items, an insulated cooler and a list of important and emergency phone numbers.
-Keep at least a three-day supply of non-perishable foods and bottled water and have a hand-operated can opener available.
-Have adequate prescription medicines or infant supplies on hand.
-If you or someone you know uses life-support equipment that requires electricity to operate, identify a location with emergency power capabilities and make plans to go there or to a hospital during a prolonged outage.
Pepco is also reaching out to its customers who have registered with them as needing electricity for critical medical equipment, to help them prepare for an extended outage.
The high winds associated with Hurricane Irene are likely to result in a significant number of fallen trees and limbs.
If the tree is down on public property:
Call 311 (or 240-777-0311 from a cell phone). Or, you can go to the 311 website at any time to report the problem.
If the tree is down on private property:
It is the responsibility of the property owner. The County's Office of Consumer Protection advises homeowners to deal with established tree removal businesses only, and to call Consumer Protection first to check a business's record. Consumer Protection can be reached at 240-777-3636.
Call 911 if:
Live wires are involved, the tree is blocking a roadway, the tree is on a structure, or if persons are trapped under the fallen tree.
Because Pepco acknowledges that Hurricane Irene could result in a multi-day outage, I would urge you to take steps to ensure that food left in the refrigerator and freezer is safe.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, meat, poultry, fish and eggs should be refrigerated at 40� F and frozen food at or below 0� F, which may be difficult with a prolonged power outage.
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. A refrigerator will only keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. Food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, soft cheeses, butter and leftover cooked meats, casseroles and pizza should be thrown out if they have been held above 40� F for over two hours. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. To be sure a particular food is cold enough; take its temperature with a food thermometer, if you have one. Never taste food to determine its safety.
If you have not already, I would strongly urge you to sign up for Alert Montgomery. Alert Montgomery allows you to receive timely updates on storm-related information to cell phones or email accounts.