Spared Sandy's worst, Washington returns to work

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Lisa Gartner

Washington was ready to spring back to life Wednesday as the federal government, the Metro system and most local public schools reopened after Hurricane Sandy kept them shut for the beginning of the workweek.

Fewer than 60,000 homes and business were without power Tuesday evening in the area, most of them in Northern Virginia, after utility companies restored nearly 200,000 customers' service throughout the day. Pepco pledged to have 90 percent of customers' power restored by 8 a.m. Wednesday, while Dominion shot for 100 percent by Thursday night.

(See a photo gallery of storm images)

"We were very, very fortunate to be on the kinder end of this very violent storm," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said. "We prepared for the worst, [and] we were spared having to endure the worst."

Power outages
Pepco
D.C. 1,914
Montgomery 2,812
Prince George's 978
Baltimore Gas and Electric
Montgomery 1,516
Prince George's 1,221
Dominion
Northern Virginia 50,500
*As of 6 p.m. Tuesday

Still, Sandy took her toll. Four local residents, two in Maryland and two in Virginia, lost their lives due to the storm, which made landfall late Monday evening and shook windows into the early hours of Tuesday.

Dozens of roads were flooded or blocked throughout the region, and the National Weather Service warned that the Potomac River would flood Wednesday and Thursday at a rate unseen in 15 years.

Alexandria was perhaps the area with the reason to be most tense on Wednesday, with the most homes still without power and some Old Town streets already flooded on Tuesday evening. Officials spent several hours Tuesday handing out sandbags to weary and wary residents, as the water was expected to continue to spill across King Street.

A power outage at a Howard County water treatment plant Monday night sent more than 1 million gallons of sewage per hour spilling into the Chesapeake Bay, and residents were asked to steer clear.

And a handful of public schools were damaged by flooding or lost power and were uncertain to open Wednesday.

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

But on the whole, Sandy's impact was far less significant than predicted -- 90 mph winds and weeks of power outages -- and much less dire than the situation in New York City, where the death toll continued to rise Tuesday evening, the subway system was flooded, and millions were without power.

"I heard noises from my house that I'd never heard before -- I thought part of my roof was going to be gone. But it was fine," said Laurel resident Mary Jo Robert. The 54-year-old Department of Defense employee had the day off due to the government shutdown and headed to the Patuxent River to check out the flooding levels.

"Agnes was a lot worse," she said, referring to the 1972 hurricane. "I still have pictures of it."

Which is not to say Washingtonians were disappointed that Sandy picked up and left so soon. "I was stranded at a lady friend's of mine," said Charles Perry, 43, who waited for one of the first Metrobuses at Eastern Market so he could go home for the first time since Sunday. Metro resumed limited service at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

"She's a friend, but there's no place like home," Perry said.

Staff writers Kytja Weir and Matt Connolly contributed to this report.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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