D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray issued a state of emergency yesterday, in anticipation of what could be historic damage from Hurricane Sandy.
“Officials will work through the weekend to ensure the District residents, businesses and infrastructure are as ready as possible for the effects of the storm, which could include heavy rain and street flooding, strong winds and power outages, and storm surge flooding along the Potomac River and its tributaries,” said a statement issued by the Mayor’s office.
In advance of the storm, the Department of Public Works (DPW) has been working around the city cleaning storm drains with special equipment — especially in flooding prone neighborhoods such as Bloomingdale. The city also distributed thousands of sandbags to residents Saturday.
Some residents picked up sandbags out of a sense of precaution, others, like Christine Peters of Bloomingdale, were simply trying to prevent the foreseeable flooding that seems to come with every major storm. “We’ve already experienced flooding,” said Peters, “that’s why we’re here. With the remnants of Hurricane Isaac our basement apartment flooded.”
DPW only issued five sandbags per household, which might not be enough for some residents. “Maybe, maybe not,” Peters added. “We also got sand from Home Depot too, because we’re worried about it.”
Weather forecasters have predicted that Sandy could be a storm of historic proportions, with sustained tropical force winds and heavy rain over a broad area. The reason, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), is because two storms are expected to merge in the mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast. Sandy — currently a category 1 tropical hurricane moving from the south — is expected to converge with a wintertime low-pressure area moving in from the east.
Tropical hurricanes get their energy and strength from warm southern waters. A wintertime frontal low-pressure area gets most of its energy from temperature differences in the atmosphere. Warm air on one side of the low-pressure front and colder air on the other side creates a broader wind field and complex dispersals of rain and perhaps snow.
Two storm systems of this nature have never converged in recent weather history – until now.
Pepco is responding to the potential for severe weather and says it is aggressively executing its Incident Response Plan in preparation. Pepco has had a less than stellar record when it comes to power restoration. Mayor Gray criticized Pepco after last summer’s derecho knocked out power to more than 41,000 District residents.
According to Pepco, it has line personnel on standby and approximately 400 contractors ready to deploy after the storm, in addition to 300 tree contractors. Friday Pepco increased the requested number of line contractors to 3,000 as well as an additional 200 tree contractors. However, it is unknown if those additional resources will be available after the storm.
Many residents are taking the storm in stride. “Better safe than sorry,” said Lou deBaca, a Georgetown resident who moved back into his newly renovated house three months ago. “I’m not a meteorologist. They said the storm is coming and you have to take their word for it.
“It’s not like this summer with the derecho storm that just came out of nowhere. If you’ve got a warning I figure you should take advantage of the warning.”
The National Hurricane Center will begin online video briefings and audio podcasts regarding Sandy beginning Sunday, Oct. 28 at 7 a.m. EDT.
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