The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Power crews making progress, but outages persist
BY CATHY JETT
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Power company crews and contractors continued to make steady progress Sunday in restoring service to customers whose electricity was knocked out by Friday’s powerful storm.
But the sweltering wait could continue for several more days for many without power.
Dominion Virginia Power said it expects to return power to 80 to 85 percent of its affected customers by Tuesday night, 90 to 95 percent by Thursday night and 100 percent by next Sunday, said spokesman Karl Neddenien.
Dominion has repaired damage to all of its major transmission lines and is focused on restoring power to public safety customers, including hospitals and 911 centers.
One of its contractors was waiting for a tree-removal team to clear away several downed trees at noon Sunday so it could replace a snapped utility pole and restore power to the line leading to Stafford Hospital. The hospital has been using backup generators since the storm, which caused the utility’s largest non-hurricane-related outage.
“We’re looking at a four-hour job,” said Charlie Borders, foreman of an eight-man crew from Diversified Services. “We should have the power back by 4 o’clock.”
Dominion called in utility workers from 13 states and Quebec, Canada, to help its crews make repairs. By Sunday afternoon, power had been restored to more than half of its customers. There were 1,960 homes and businesses in Fredericksburg that still did not have power by early Sunday evening.
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative brought in contract crews and additional linemen from less-affected areas of Virginia, as well as Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Maryland. As of 6:30 p.m. Sunday, it had restored power to 70 percent of its customers. Locally, most of REC’s customers still without electricity are in Orange and Culpeper counties.
“The cooperative expects to have power restored to most of its members by the end of the week,” said David F. Koogler, REC’s vice president of customer services. “It may take longer to complete repairs in more heavily damaged areas. Be assured that our efforts will not stop until everyone has service.”
Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, which includes part of Stafford, had restored power to most of its customers by Sunday afternoon. Only 317 Stafford customers were still without power. Northern Neck Electric Cooperative had just three customers who were still without power.
Due to the widespread power outages, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced Sunday that federal agencies in Washington will be open Monday, but non-emergency employees have the option of taking unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Those eligible must notify their supervisors.
The leave policy is expected to help keep some drivers off the roads and ease a commute that could be difficult in parts of the region because of dark traffic signals.
The “derecho” storm system that blasted through Friday night, packing straight- line winds measured at up to 80 mph, is being blamed for at least seven deaths in Virginia. Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the state medical examiner has concluded a traffic death Friday night in Montgomery County was storm related.
The other deaths all resulted from falling trees. None were in the Fredericksburg area.
The combination of power outages and extreme heat had many area residents seeking relief—and a bite to eat—at area hotels, restaurants and other places.
Joe Creasey, front desk manager at the Hampton Inn & Suites near Wegmans, said Saturday was the busiest day for the hotel that he’s ever seen.
People were coming in all day long, and he could have filled the Hampton Inn solely with locals who didn’t have power, he said. Once the hotel was filled, he called others to see if he could find rooms for people.
“Every hotel that I called was booked,” Creasey said. “I called beyond Richmond and beyond Baltimore. There was somebody who booked a room in Frederick, Md.”
Restaurants also were busy as people who had no way to fix meals or who were wary of using food that was starting to spoil in their freezer turned to them for dinner. BRAVO! Cucina Italiana in The Village at Towne Centre at Spotsylvania Towne Centre was packed early Saturday evening, but the crowds began tapering off as power was restored to more and more homes, said manager Aaron Decker.
Downed trees and the loss of power helped create long lines at area landfills.
Trucks and cars filled with limbs, debris and spoiled food stretched for almost a half-mile early Sunday afternoon at the Rappahannock Regional Landfill in Stafford. The landfill stayed open an additional two hours, until 5 p.m., to handle the demand.
The combination of a triple-digit heat index and no power still managed to catch up with some people. All three local hospitals reported a rise in heat-related complaints over the weekend.