Pepco discusses Hurricane Irene power outages

Aug 29, 2011

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses are still without power in the DC region after Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast. Pepco executive Mike Maxwell chatted about the power outages and what to expect next.

Related: Hundreds of thousands still without power in D.C. region

Good Afternoon ... I am Mike Maxwell, VP of Asset Management for Pepco.

Looking forward to chatting with you.

Did the previous outages suffered in the past year, and Pepco's response to them, prevent more widespread outages from Irene? Or were we just lucky in Montgomery County that Irene was not very strong.

Yes ... much of the work that we did as part of the Reliability Enhancement Plan went a long way towards minimizing the overall impacts of the storm. However, it is clear that the bulk of the weather affected more of the eastern part of the Pepco territory which includes a large part of Prince George's County.  

Would Pepco be responsible for the Anne Arrundel County Area or would this BG&E? I am curious about timing estimates for the area.

No ... Anne Arundel County falls in BGE's territory.

May I make some suggestions for the PEPCO web site: During an outage, most people who need the information will be using smartphones or laptops tethered to smartphones. Both slow compared to normal internet speeds, and with much smaller screen and processors. Can you make either a mobile site with a minimum of graphics for outages, and reduce graphics on your outage pages to improve the site's speed? It should also be optimized for phones. I was unable to use your site on my iPhone--too many graphics, even with WiFi at a coffee shop.

You are absolutely correct that we should have a smart phone app and we will very shortly. We have been testing it to ensure that it can handle large volumes of traffic coming through the primary and back-up lines. 

We are also aware that some customer experienced a slower website due to the higher volume of traffic.


I live in a roughly two block long area of Chesapeake St, NW that loses power frequently and for longer duration than surrounding neighbors. We lost power on Saturday evening at 5:00 and are still in the dark. Last Thursday we lost power for three hours (3-6pm), well before it started raining. Is there a process for having our particular subnode analyzed and the source of these frequent failures be discovered?

I'm sorry to hear about your experiences. With regard to finding out about your specific reliability issues, please call 202-833-7500, that is our customer care center, and request a reliability history and we will be able to address it at that time.

Why am I getting calls to see if my power has been restored when in fact it has not been? I have a 4 year old and 1 year old and you can imagine what it is like being without power.

One of the reasons we perform call backs is because crews have made repairs in the neighborhood and surrounding areas, and we want to ensure that each house has been restored. Without requesting a call back when you report an outage, we wouldn't know the service to your house is still out. Please make sure to report all outages to 1-877-737-2662.

I live in Glover Park where we have multiple partial outages, downed wires, and fallen trees, yet I haven't seen a single pepco truck yesterday or today. Where are they? Why is the response SO slow? When is Pepco going to get its act together??

Hurricane Irene caused widespread and extensive damage to trees that fell on our power lines. This occurred on main streets as well as in neighborhoods. We have hundreds of Pepco crews and crews from other utilities working around the clock to restore power.  

Several houses on our street have been left with half power for the past two days. We have power to some of the lights and outlets in our home,but not others. Several times the power that is off will go on for a few minutes and at the same time we hear a crackling noise from a fallen wire down the street. First, why are we all experiencing a partial power outage and also, is the crackling from the wire dangerous to our homes? Thanks.

The crackling sound is an indication of a live wire. Please report downed wires and other similar concerns to 1-877-737-2662. 

When do you expect all power to be back on by?

Pepco expects to restore service to all of its customers impacted by the hurricane by Thursday evening. However, most of the remaining customers without power will have their service restored before that time. We want to provide every customer with information that allows them to plan for the worst case scenario. Crews have been working 24-hours a day to restore power since the first bands of the hurricane reached the Washington area Saturday morning.  

Do you think schools will have power restored by tomorrow?

We understand that these outages make it difficult for parents to plan. We are working with these schools to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. Ultimately, the decision to open schools once power is restored is a decision made by the school system. 

What is the ETR that was to be announced "this morning" according to the Pepco news release?

We expect to restore service to all customers by Thursday, and many before then. To keep up-to-date, frequently visit the Pepco website at and view the outage map. You can also follow us on Twitter at for quick updates and information on restoration.

In front of my house In Takoma Park, a tree brought down wires and the whole mess is blocking the street and BOTH sidewalks. Pedestrians have been climbing through the tree branches among the downed wires to pass through, despite the police tape. This seems to me to be a very dangerous situation, yet we haven't seen or heard anything from PEPCO at all or been given any indication as to when the situation will be addressed.

First of all - stay away from the downed wires. These are potentially live and very dangerous. Please, tell all others you see around that area to stay away, as well. 

Please report this incident immediately to: 1-877-737-2662. 

Wouldn't the cost of burying power lines be made up by having fewer outages and repairs?

While we may have had fewer tree related outages, the cost of undergrounding existing circuits is quite expensive. The cost of undergrounding ranges between $3 million to $11 million a mile, depending on whether we are burying the lines in an urban area or the suburbs/rural area. 

Will work to recover from the storm significantly delay Pepco's other work? Pepco is already significantly behind on regular service requests. I have been waiting for months for a heavy-up to complete a project on my house, and now am worried that this will fall even further down the list.

Right now, the damage from Hurricane Irene has created an all hands on deck restoration effort. Our first priority is to restore all customers' power as quickly and safely as possible. We do, however, encourage you to follow-up with us as soon as this restoration effort is over. 

Pepco seems to have restored about 170,000 of the 220,000 customers who lost power. How many more customers do you expect to bring back on today?

Under our restoration strategy, once primary power lines are restored, crews will continue working on lines in neighborhoods and to individual homes. While I do not have a specific number for today, we anticipate that the majority of customers will be restored by Thursday. However, most will have power back on before then.

Pepco came out to Gaithersburg/Washington Grove last week and trimmed trees around power lines. This is an area that always loses power and this time power flickered but was not lost and no trees damaged power lines. Thanks for being proactive.

I appreciate the kind words and am happy to hear that the work being done as part of  our Reliability Enhnancement Plan has improved service in your area. It is my objective to make sure all customers see the same level of improvement. 

Hi, thank you for making yourself available for this online discussion. Was Pepco and DC just lucky that the Irene was much weaker than Isabelle? Also, given the beautiful and calm weather ysterday, why more than 20 thousand DC customers are still without power? Thank you.

One of the reasons we still have customers out in the District oif Columbia is the amount of widespread damage we suffered from Hurricane Irene. There are so many large trees that have come down and taken our infrastructure with it. It does take time to remove the trees, rebuild the poles and restring the wires. I can tell you that at this point in time, the number of customers out in the District is down to just over 11,000. Our crews will continue working around the clock until every customer is restored.

Everyone, thank you for this opportunity to address some of your questions. Hopefully this has been helpful. I apologize, but I have to get back to the restoration effort. 

Please remember to report all outages and downed wires to 1-877-737-2662. I encourage you to frequently check our website at and view our outage map for updates and information. 

All the best,


In This Chat
Mike Maxwell
Michael (Max) Maxwell is Vice President, Asset Management of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI), a regional energy holding company that provides utility service to more than 1.9 million customers. PHI is the parent company of Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco), an electric utility serving Washington, D.C., and suburban Maryland.

Mr. Maxwell is responsible for assuring the short and long-term performance and reliability of the transmission, substation and distribution assets of PHI’s regulated utility subsidiaries.

He began his Pepco career in 1987 as an engineer in the substation engineering group.

Mr. Maxwell is a 1987 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a commission in the United States Army Military Intelligence Branch.
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