Hurricane Irene left behind flooding and power outages in the Washington area, and its winds caused at least two deaths in Virginia, as the storm marched up the East Coast.
About 30,000 Washington area residents were already without power Saturday evening, with hundreds of thousands more in the dark across the state of Virginia. Local power companies anticipated even more widespread outages thatcould last for days while crews battle downed lines and trees.
As the storm passed through Virginia heading north, its center tracked east of Washington and its suburbs, but Irene still slapped the area hard with high winds and rain.
Maryland and Virginia were made eligible for emergency federal funds by President Obama Saturday, as cities and counties around the region geared up for a long cleanup process, mobilizing emergency crews and rescue workers.
“With the size of the storm, the amount of people affected, it’s going to take a long time tomake repairs,” said John Campbell, spokesman for Virginia’s emergency information center.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell warned residents Saturday that some areas could face hours of winds at speeds more than 75 milesper hour, while the National Weather Service warned of flash flooding throughout the Washington region Saturday evening.
Strong winds killed a child in Newport News when a tree fell on an apartment building Saturday; another man died when a tree hit his vehicle in Brunswick County.
In Prince William County, a tree fell on a woman in Dale City and broke her leg. Officials warned that trees could topple easily in the strong winds and rain-soaked ground.
The storm’s threat prompted numerous events to be cancelled, from the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial to high school football games. Amtrak suspended service south of the District and throughout much of the Northeast, and Capital Bikeshare shut down at 6 p.m. Saturday until further notice.
Metro was expecting delays while buses detoured around flooding, butwas not expecting to have to stop trains due to the storm. The agency gave chain saws to maintenance workers to chop up and remove fallen trees.
Area roads are likely to see flooding during and after Irene hits, said George Hawkins, general manager for D.C. Water.
He said extra crews would be responding to drains clogged with storm debris throughout the weekend to fight the flooding.
Pepco warned customers that it could be days before power was restored, despite the 1,000 extra personnel mobilized to help in the clean-up.
“Based on the weather updates we have received from the weather services, there is a very real possibility for significant damage to our electrical infrastructure,” said Pepco President Joseph Rigby.
But Hawkins offered one bright spot for area residents experiencing Irene: He expects water to keep flowing from faucets and showerheads.
“We have redundant power taps for our facilities,” he said. “If any one substation goes down, that won’t stop us.”