Lights go back on at several D.C. agencies after 36-hour outage

The lights were coming back on at the General Services Administration building on First Street in Northeast Washington late Thursday afternoon, a spokesman said, more than 36 hours after damage to underground power lines cut electricity to the complex and several other federal offices, businesses and private homes.

Power was also coming back late Thursday at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to a spokesman for Pepco, Washington's main electric utility provider.

Pepco was restoring power in phases at the GSA complex and other major complexes in the affected area "to prevent a sudden overload of the system," according to spokesman Bob Hainey and to a company statement.

All the affected buildings are located within about 10 blocks of each other near First Street in Northeast Washington.

Employees of the affected agencies either worked from home or in temporary office space Wednesday and Thursday or were on administrative leave. Agency officials were unable to give an estimate of how many employees teleworked during the outage, but a 2010 Office of Personnel Management report on the status of telework in the federal government suggests 23 percent of GSA employees, about half of FERC employees, and nearly one-third of EEOC employees are unable to telework because of a job-related barrier. The report did not have figures for ATF.

GSA made arrangements for alternate work spaces during the outage at its 1800 F St. facility and at its National Capital Region headquarters in Washington. The agency also offered employees use of offices of the Federal Acquisition Service in Crystal City in Arlington, Va.

GSA said it was "following procedures and processes refined from experiences like the 'snowmageddon' snowstorms of February 2010."

Pepco missed several self-imposed deadlines to restore power because of new damage it found.

"Power was temporarily restored last night at 9 p.m. at both FERC headquarters buildings at 888 and 1100 First Street, NE," the agency reported Thursday morning. "However, it was lost again shortly around 11 p.m."

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