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Hurricane Sandy Lands in Montgomery County But Severe Damage Avoided

Thousands were without power and moderate flooding was still possible but officials said operations were getting back to normal.

(UPDATE 1:35 PM)

Montgomery County was spared significant damage from the effects of Hurricane Sandy and county services and transportation are set to return to normal by Wednesday, according to county officials.

About 10,000 Pepco customers were without power, trees were down in some areas and one person was killed in the county during the storm.

But County Executive Isiah Leggett said the storm did not live up to the catastrophic predictions of severe damage and flooding, at least in Montgomery County.

"News for us today is we're going back to normal operations," Leggett said from the Montgomery County Emergency Operations Center in Gaithersburg. "We fared very well compared to other locations."

Montgomery County government will be open Wednesday along with county schools. Metro and bus services Tuesday afternoon were on a Sunday schedule and will run a normal schedule on Wednesday.

All early voting stations were set to be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. 

Leggett said Wednesday night's Halloween celebration would go on as planned, though parents were urged to make sure their neighborhoods were safe.

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The effects of Hurricane Sandy pounded Montgomery County overnight, prompting more than 350 calls to fire and rescue services and leaving more than 10,000 homes without power due to heavy winds and rain.

But services were starting to be restored Tuesday and government offices and schools were set to reopen Wednesday.

“We were very fortunate to be on the kinder end of this very violent storm,” Gov. Martin O'Malley said of the state of Maryland at a Tuesday press conference.

Three deaths were reported, including one in Montgomery County—a 66-year-old woman killed in a two-car collision in Clarksburg that officials said was weather-related.

The effects of the hurricane as of Tuesday morning, but utility officials said they expected worse.

"Pepco is relieved that the storm did not generate as many outages as we had anticipated," spokesman Clay Anderson said.

He said outages in Montgomery County were "pretty widely dispersed."

According to the Pepco storm outage map, northern Montgomery County near Rockville and Gaithersburg were the most affected Monday morning. The utility on Friday had expected a catastrophic power loss as residents braced for the storm, anticipating tens of thousands of outages across the region.

Anderson said downed trees were concentrated in Bethesda and Potomac.

Readers commended Pepco for keeping lights on during what officials called the largest tropical system recorded in the Atlantic.

Anderson said it was too early to tell when power may be restored but it could come as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Montgomery County public schools and local and federal government offices were closed for a second day as the region began cleanup following the storm's departure in the early-morning hours. For a full list of closures and notices click here. 

Ten schools were without power Tuesday morning and minor damage was reported at some schools but MCPS officials said schools would open on time Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Officials with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced that Metro will resume limited bus and rail service Tuesday beginning at 2 p.m. Normal service is expected to resume by Wednesday morning. 

"Residual effects of the storm are still possible. Customers traveling today should allow extra time. Buses may encounter detours due to downed trees, power lines or flooding," reads a press release from WMATA. 

The Montgomery County State of Emergency will be lifted at 5 p.m., according to a county release. Ride On to start restoring Sunday-level service at 4 p.m., and will resume normal weekday service Wednesday. County government offices will open Wednesday.

County Executive Isiah Leggett scheduled a press conference at the Montgomery County Emergency Operations Center at 12 p.m. to report on cleanup plans.

The area still faces a threat from flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

Moderate flooding was still expected of the Potomac River near Little Falls, though National Weather Service estimates have decreased the peak estimated flood stage to 12.2 feet on Thursday, down from Monday’s estimate of 15. 3 feet.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the river measured at 7.8 feet.

Rain was predicted through Wednesday, and with that could come flooding from smaller waterways around the county, including Seneca Creek, which would contribute to the larger flood of the river, according to the National Weather Service.

In Silver Spring, 19 people were displaced after a tree fell on an apartment building late Monday. No one was reported injured. 

Approximately as the storm made its way over the upper Chesapeake Bay, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced.

This story was updated at 12 p.m. to include that county schools will open Wednesday.

Jerry October 30, 2012 at 03:46 PM
We were lucky in our visit from Sandy, but Pepco deserves praise anyway. Here in Glen Hills my power was out for 30 minutes, but that was all. Perhaps our experience with the derecho earlier this summer was a blessing in disguise. It brought down most of the vulnerable trees and branches while the weather was still warm and enabled an easier clean up.
Danna Walker (Editor) October 30, 2012 at 03:58 PM
I've been hearing that as well -- that the derecho cleared out the dead and dying trees. I'm still thinking about having a gigantic tree in my backyard taken down!
Joe Edgell October 30, 2012 at 05:25 PM
PEPCO getting credit for keeping power on could be both right and wrong. Clearly their massive tree pruning undertaken after the Derecho had a positive impact. Of course, the expense of pruning was only undertaken after extensive pressure from local politicians like Tom Hucker. They were not properly maintaining the system absent that public pressure. But key factors were the fairly dry soils and the fact that many leaves had already fallen. Saturated soils can cause trees to lose their purchase and fall when its windy. But soils were fairly dry at storm start. Additionally, wind exerts significantly more force on trees with leaves than those without. Since at least half the leaves were off the trees, the wind exerted less force, thus probably leading to less downed trees. So the kudos given to PEPCO should rather go to our local politicians and mother nature. PEPCO was merely lucky.
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