How Quickly Did D.C.-Area Agencies and Utilities Relay Power Outage Info?

Songquan Deng /

WASHINGTON — No two agencies’ emergency responses are exactly the same, and some were more on point than others Tuesday afternoon when a power disruption involving a transmission conductor in Southern Maryland led to widespread but temporary power outages across the National Capital Region, impacting federal agencies, the White House, State Department, U.S. Capitol, Metrorail system, the University of Maryland, residences and businesses.

Here’s how quickly some local agencies, electric utilities and public officials across the D.C.-area communicated the situation with members of the public, who encountered darked traffic signals, out-of-service elevators and escalators and powerless offices and homes.

12:48 p.m. ET: Metrorail reported several stations were using emergency lighting but trains had power and were moving through the system. Subsequent tweets stated 14 stations were using backup power and certain station escalators and elevators were inoperable.

1:18 p.m. ET: The AlertDC system relayed information from PEPCO, a D.C.-area electric utility, that it was dealing with several, concurrent power outages in its service area. The District Department of Transportation followed with regular tweets regarding downed traffic lights.

1:32 p.m. ET: The Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, whose Charles County power plant was the source of the transmission failure, reported it was investigating “widespread outages throughout the D.C. metro area.”

1:43 p.m.: The D.C. Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which reported the SMECO issue to the media, retweeted the D.C. Alert before putting out its own safety tweet regarding non-functional traffic signals.

2:03 p.m. ET: PEPCO tweeted that an issue with a transmission line caused the dip in voltage that triggered equipment back-up systems in D.C. and that repairs had begun in Charles County. A press release followed at 2:26 p.m.

2:23 p.m.: D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman was the first D.C. elected official to tweet that she had spoken with PEPCO.

2:45 p.m. ET: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which manages the region’s Metrorail system, reported that power was restored to all stations, but out-of-service escalators at the Bethesda station forced its temporary closure.

2:56 p.m. ET: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted the District government’s update on the “power surge,” urging residents still without electricity to see if their circuit breaker needed resetting.

3.27 p.m. ET: About two hours after its last tweet, SMECO reported that a transmission conductor broke free at a power station and most service was restored by 2 p.m. when power was rerouted.


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