By Justin Sink
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) demanded Pepco — the power company that serves her state and the District of Columbia — prepare an "aggressive plan" to address expected power outages and damage as a result of Hurricane Irene. Pepco started calling customers Thursday night to warn them that electric service throughout the region could be knocked out for a significant amount of time.
"It is imperative that Pepco do everything in its power to address damage to its infrastructure and power outages as quickly as possible," Mikulski wrote in a letter to Pepco CEO Joseph Rigby.
Mikulski demanded that the power company bring in additional crews, create a triage system to address power outages and prioritize efforts to "vulnerable populations" including the elderly, young and disabled.
Pepco said that it has added additional crews and will be working throughout the weekend to maintain power to the capital region.
“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,” Rigby said in a statement.
Pepco has been criticized in the past for poor reliability during weather crises. A February article in The Washington Post said that Pepco customers experienced 70 percent more outages than customers of other big-city utilities and that outages lasted twice as long than those with peer electric companies.
After last year's snow storms that shut down the capital region, the utility did not fully restore service to some customers for more than a week.
Other politicians are warning Maryland and D.C. residents to prepare for Hurricane Irene. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray have declared states of emergency and warned that flooding is likely throughout the region.