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Hurricane Sandy shuts down Washington area

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Photo - Sandbags line the entrance to a Starbucks coffee shop in Alexandria (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Sandbags line the entrance to a Starbucks coffee shop in Alexandria (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Lisa Gartner

The federal government, the Metro system and local schools shut down for a second day as Hurricane Sandy moved toward land Monday night and was expected to continue its barrage of the Washington area throughout Tuesday.

(See a photo gallery of storm images and follow the latest updates from the Examiner)

Hunkered down in their homes, residents braced themselves for widespread power outages that Pepco officials said won't be resolved for a week.

Power outages
Pepco: District -- 1,878; Montgomery and Prince George's -- 7,968
Dominion: Northern Virginia -- 5,380
NOVEC: Northern Virginia -- 2,389
Baltimore Gas and Electric: Montgomery and Prince George's: 948
What's closed Tuesday
Federal government
All local county governments
All local public school systems
Metro (rail and buses at least in the morning, MetroAccess all day)
Virginia Railway Express
MARC trains
Dulles International Airport
Reagan National Airport

Both Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley warned that the large, slow-moving storm was likely to prove deadly before it left the Washington area Wednesday.

(Watch storm videos from the D.C. region and the latest videos from around the country)

"We're not trying to scare anyone, but we are being honest," O'Malley said.

The region awoke Monday to warnings from the National Weather Service that Sandy would bring wind gusts of up to 90 miles per hour, even more intense than the predictions made over the weekend.

(Need shelter? See a map of locations)

Before Sandy fully hit, harsh winds and heavy rainfall had knocked out power for nearly 20,000 customers in the Washington area by early Monday evening. "Hurricane Sandy could be the largest storm that ever hits the United States... It's expected to basically sit on us for a number of hours," said Dave Velazquez, executive vice president of power delivery for Pepco. The utility company has requested 3,700 extra hands as the storm bears down on Washington, and is hoping to begin restoration efforts as early as Tuesday, although Valazquez and region President Tom Graham say that many residents could be without power for a week or more.

Meteorologists say Sandy could cause up to $1 billion in damage along the East Coast, and the shorelines of Virginia and Maryland were no exception Monday. In Ocean City, the fishing pier was "half-gone" by the morning, O'Malley said.

In Maryland and Virginia, roads began closing as flooding took its toll. A number of Maryland bridges, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, were closed Monday afternoon as winds picked up. Parts of Beach Drive and Little Falls Parkway were closed off by noon, while traffic signals went dark, including at Shady Grove Road and the off ramp at Interstate 370. Eight roads in Fairfax County were blocked off as high waters made county officials deem them too dangerous to navigate.

The National Weather Service said the Potomac River is likely to flood Wednesday and remain flooded through Friday.

Maryland lowered its highway speed limits to 45 mph, while Virginia opened carpool lanes for all drivers.

Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports were closed until further notice, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport officials said they expected widespread cancellations Tuesday.

The District was a ghost town Monday after the federal, state and local governments shut down, along with Metro and all the local school systems. Every Starbucks on K Street closed its doors.

Metro officials, who suspended all rail and bus service Monday for the first time since 2003's Hurricane Isabel, said the transit system would remain closed Tuesday morning until they could assess conditions.

D.C. authorized its cabs to charge an extra $15 on top of regular meter fares through noon on Tuesday, saying taxi drivers were taking a risk being out on the road.

The federal government activated Virginia Task Force One, an elite 80-person search and rescue team based in Fairfax County. The team is waiting word on potential deployment in Chantilly.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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