Metro stays running during storm with detours, borrowed power

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Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro service was severely tested by the weekend storm's knockout punch, but the agency has so far kept rail and bus services running.

The powerful storm that kicked down trees and power lines along the East Coast hit Metro, too. Outages hit stations around the system, while trees and downed wires blocked dozens of bus routes.

But Metro's General Manager, Richard Sarles, thanked both Pepco and Dominion Power on Monday in a public letter for restoring much of the agency's power. "Your respective teams prioritized work needed to keep Metro service operating," he wrote.

The storm knocked out power to about a dozen of the system's 86 stations, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel, but the agency was able to keep them open with generator power, even if escalators and elevators remained down. Metro did close the Courthouse station over the weekend, though, because it was too dark without full power, he said.

By Monday morning, normal power to most stations had been restored with only about half a dozen running on generator power, Stessel said. By afternoon, he said, normal power was back at all but Greenbelt, Grosvenor and Wheaton stations.

However, the track system was also affected. Normally, substations around the system provide power to the track system's third rail, which in turn runs the trains. But the massive storm knocked out some. Because the Metrorail system is linked, though, the agency was able to pull power from other parts of the system and feed it into downed areas with what it calls "backfeeding."

As of Monday afternoon, the agency still had two substations down, on the Green Line at Prince George's Plaza and on the Orange Line at Deanwood, pulling power from elsewhere.

However, Metro officials believe they will be able to supply extra service from 6 p.m. to midnight for Wednesday's July 4th festivities, as planned.

Metro still was rerouting more than two dozen bus routes Monday, primarily around downed power lines and trees.

The detours left some riders waiting in vain for buses that never showed. For Pat and Kathi Spray, a detoured F4 meant a struggle to get to a cooling center.

The two lost power at their Riverdale home and had only a limited amount of power stored in the motorized wheelchairs they both need to get around. They tried to head to a Prince George's County cooling center, but the line that would get them there was detouring around a wide swath of stops.

The Sprays rode their wheelchairs to the cooling center Saturday, using up valuable battery power. But on Sunday, they had only enough power to get to the bus stop. "So we had to stay in the house and deal with the heat because just trying to find a random bus stop that may or may not have been serviced would have ended up with us being stranded outside in the heat," Kathi Spray said via email.

Stessel defended the agency's communications, saying Metro sent out email and text alerts over the weekend to more than 5,000 bus riders, even though it normally runs the e-alerts only on weekdays.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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