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It's on-again, off-again power for Washington area

Substation fire blacks out another 70,000

January 18, 1999
Web posted at: 2:10 a.m. EST (0710 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Power was restored by Sunday afternoon to many of the nearly 745,000 Washington D.C.-area customers hit by a massive ice storm, but a fire at a Maryland substation put at least 70,000 people back in the dark.

Thursday's massive ice storm caused one of the region's worst blackouts ever.

Bright sunshine has melted the remnants of the storm but more than 65,000 businesses and households in Washington and the outlying suburbs are still without electricity, utility companies said.

The hard-hit Maryland suburbs should not expect full recovery until Tuesday, a spokeswoman at Potomac Electric Power Co. said, adding that 43,000 Pepco customers remained without power. Pepco supplies electricity to the nation's capital and nearby areas in Maryland.

Substation fire blacks out another 70,000

An additional 70,000 Pepco customers lost power Sunday evening after a circuit breaker failure caused a major fire at a Pepco substation in Olney, the company said in a statement.

The fire broke out around 4:30 p.m. at Pepco's Norbeck substation, which in turn shut down eight other substations in the area, said Camille Smith, a spokesperson for Pepco.

Smith told CNN it is not yet clear what caused the fire. No one was hurt or injured in the fire that lasted nearly 15 minutes.

Pepco expected to get power back to most of the affected homes Sunday night or Monday morning.

Emergency shelters stayed open in Maryland and hotels continued to do brisk business Sunday as people sought refuge from cold nights. But in Virginia utility crews were celebrating an almost complete recovery.

"We've already started releasing some crews. They are getting some rest and happy to be going home," said Virginia Power spokesman Dan Genest, adding only 190 of its customers remained without power compared to roughly 215,000 at the peak of the storm. Saturday, 1,000 Virginia Power utility workers and 250 tree trimmers made steady progress under favorable weather conditions.

Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. said 22,000 of its customers remained without power, down from a high of 300,000 Friday, and work was expected to be completed Monday.

The company said utility crews from Pennsylvania and New Jersey were brought in to help with repairs, with more than 800 utility workers still out in the field backed by additional office support staff.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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