Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc along the Atlantic coast Monday, killing at least 80 and leaving millions without power, but the Washington metropolitan area escaped largely unscathed.
Although D.C. airport and metro services were disrupted, dozens of roads were closed and power was lost in some areas, most city services resumed normal operations by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Around 44,000 of electric service provider Pepco’s D.C. customers lost power, according to company spokesperson Bob Hainey, but more than 90 percent of outages were fixed by Tuesday night and all power was restored by 10 p.m. Wednesday.
District airports were unaffected by power outages, but airlines cancelled all flights on Monday and did not resume service until Tuesday afternoon.
Metro bus and rail services, which were suspended all day Monday and resumed 2 p.m. Tuesday, escaped the water damage that afflicted other cities’ public transportation services.
“There was some minor water infiltration, but we didn’t really have any significant flooding in the stations,” said Philip Stewart, spokesperson for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. “Once the bulk of the storm passed around 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, we had a good idea that we had not sustained any significant damage to the system.”
Though heavy rain caused the Potomac River to rise two or three feet above normal by Wednesday morning, the region did not experience the severe flooding that the National Weather Service had predicted, according to Georgetown Patch.
The hurricane’s effects on area businesses were varied. Some, like Wisemiller’s Grocery and Deli, remained open throughout the hurricane and profited from increased demand.
“We were planning to close at 8 p.m. Monday, but because there were so many customers stocking up on food, we ended up closing at our normal time,” store manager Cesar Lopez said.
Lopez added that the store did not suffer damages.
“The store was fine,” he said. “We weren’t really affected.”
On the other hand, Serendipity 3, a restaurant located at 3150 M St., was one of several businesses in the Georgetown area to block all doors and windows and remain closed to the public on Monday and part of Tuesday.
According to manager Aras Gulle, the restaurant sustained minor damages and experienced about a $10,000 loss in sales revenue.
“There was a little bit of water damage. Our windows are wooden, and so they leak, so we were expecting that [and] planned accordingly,” he said. “We were able to keep damage to a minimum, and there were no broken windows [or] water damage on wood.”
District Department of Transportation spokesperson John Lisle also said that advance preparation for the storm helped minimize damage.
“We had a lot of advance warning of the storm, so one thing we did was to clean the catch basins so that they would be free of leaves or debris,” Lisle said.
Starting the Thursday before the storm, WMATA crews also cleared drainage areas, checked on the status of water pumps and secured train tunnels against potential flooding.
“There are water pumping systems throughout the Metro, so we had crews inspecting them to make sure they were properly working,” Stewart said. “We also [had] sand bags at … places where flooding is sometimes an issue.”
Lisle added that DDOT installed 200 generators at major intersections in case of power outages.
“There are 1,700 signalized intersections in the city and only 200 generators, but we deployed those to the major intersections. A lot of our preparations … also [included] having personnel in place and ready to respond,” he said.
These precautionary measures helped mitigate the impact of power outages, according to Lisle.
“Power outages are obviously disruptive to residents, but most importantly, when power goes out, so do traffic lights, and that causes additional issues,” he said. “We were very fortunate. We had very few traffic lights out for long periods of time.”
Now that regular transportation service has been restored, DDOT’s main focus is dealing with damage to roads caused by standing water, flooding and downed trees, according to Lisle.
“We’re still assessing where trees or wires are down, but I would say we had probably at least a couple dozen roadways that were closed,” Lisle said. “We have crews out now removing downed trees and debris, and that work will probably continue for the rest of the week, which is not unusual after a storm like this.”
Lisle credited community members’ cooperation for the smoothness of emergency operations.
“I think that one of the things that worked really well was that people heeded the warnings to stay inside and to not drive,” Lisle said. “The roadways were, for the most part, free of traffic, which cut down on potential incidents or people getting hurt and freed up the roads for emergency responders. It also made sure that the fire and police departments could respond to storm-related calls rather than going to traffic [accidents].”