DC Metro chief thanks power companies for outage handling

by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper

The chief of the Washington, D.C.’s Metro subway system is thanking utility companies in the capital region for their response to violent storms last week that caused massive power outages.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager Richard Sarles said Monday the Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco) and Dominion Power had done a good job restoring power to the electrified subway rails in and around the capital city.

“While I know your focus remains on efforts to restore power to the region, I want to take a moment to thank you and your Pepco and Dominion Virginia Power teams for your support of our public transit services in the wake of Friday night’s storm,” Sarles wrote in a letter to Pepco President Thomas Graham and Dominion Power CEO Thomas Farrell.

Many Washington, D.C. residents, including several prominent political figures, have complained about the speed of the utility companies’ response to widespread power outages in the capital area. But Sarles said the companies acted quickly when it came to the Metro system.

“Your respective teams prioritized work needed to keep Metro service operating, ensuring efficient use of manpower and resources, and helping us ensure the safety of customers and employees,” Sarles said. “Both companies have staff who were responding promptly and effectively to calls from our Rail Operations Control Center, Maintenance Operations Center, and Departmental Systems Maintenance during the weather event.”

Politicians who represent constituents who have been without power in the metro D.C. area have offered a different take on the region’s utility companies performance since the Friday storm, which has been identified by weather experts as a derecho, or a series of sudden, violent thunderstorms.

“Nobody will have their boot further up Pepco’s backside than I will to make sure we get there,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) told reporters over the weekend after the power company estimated it would take until Friday to fully restore electric service in Washington and Maryland, according to local media reports.

O’Malley is thought to be a possible 2016 presidential candidate. His counterpart in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), declared a state of emergency in his state after the storms left thousands of northern Virginia residents without power.

McDonnell is widely considered to be a vice presidential prospect for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, prominent Washington media personalities like The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza took to their Twitter accounts to complain about the region’s utility services on Monday.

“Ok, @DomVAPower, I am trying to stay sane,” Cilliza tweeted Monday. But no estimate on when my power might be back? Come on!”

Cillizza said in a later tweet that he was told his power had been restored, but he followed up with a message saying the report was premature.

“Oh, @DomVAPower…after calling me to say my power was back, you called to tell me it was a mistake — and it’s not,” he tweeted. “Wow. Incompetence.”

Media reports estimated a million people in the Washington, D.C., area lost power as a result of the weekend storms.



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