Pepco said Wednesday it's prepared for hurricane season, nearly a year after facing criticisms over extended power outages in the wake of a violent storm.
The utility joined the American Red Cross, the National Weather Service and other agencies Wednesday to talk about the upcoming summer's storm season and offer tips to D.C.-area residents.
Hurricane season begins Saturday, and it's expected to be a busy one.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believes we'll see 13 to 20 named Atlantic storms this season, with 7 to 11 that strengthen into hurricanes and 3 to 6 that become major hurricanes.
The National Weather Service warns that we should also be prepared for microbursts and severe summer storms common to our area.
In advance of storm season, Pepco says they've made improvements such as installing new poles, trimming trees and improving both underground and overhead power lines.
The utility gave details on new technology that will help them prepare for storms and deal with the aftermath, including a mobile app that displays outage maps and gives customers restoration times. Thousands of homes have also been equipped with smart meters, which will give Pepco an idea of where outages are located.
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"We're able to ping the system to determine whether that customer is in or out of service so we don't go to that location, but we go to where we are needed, so that's a big improvement for our customers," Pepco regional president Thomas Graham said.
The agency came under fire after last summer's violent derecho storm left thousands of customers without power for days during a heat wave.
Bethesda resident Kayla Van Scoy said her neighborhood, Wildwood, was particularly hard hit by the derecho.
"It was absolutely horrible," she told News4's Chris Gordon. "There were power lines everywhere. We were trapped inside of our house for probably a week without any power."
Pepco says fewer power outages are expected this year, and those that do occur should be shorter than in the past.
"Thirty-nine percent improvement with frequency means those outages do not occur as often... Forty-two percent improvement with respect to duration means when they do go out of service, they don't go out of service for long. So those are big improvements for our customers for day-to-day reliability," sad Pepco President Thomas Graham.
In Virginia, the State Bureau of Insurance is urging residents to check their coverage before a storm hits. The agency says once a hurricane develops, insurance is harder to acquire until the storm threat has passed.
Most hurricane damage comes from flooding, not high winds, which most policies in Virginia don't cover. Residents in eligible communities can buy flood insurance from the federal government.
The American Red Cross says every family should take one action now to get ready for a weather emergency.
"Make sure you family emergency preparedness plan," said a spokesperson. "Make sure you have emergency supplies, and thirdly have a way of staying informed of what's going on and what to do when it occurs."
You can find information on making an emergency readiness plan at Ready.gov.
From May 25 until May 31, Virginia will also hold its Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness Equipment Tax Holiday. During that week, items needed for hurricane preparedness will be exempt from sales tax. For a full list of eligible items, click here.
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