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Government, Transit Shuts Down as Sandy Moves Through Arlington

No storm-related injuries or fatalities reported late Monday.

The winds may still be blowing, but Arlington County will wake to a relative standstill Tuesday with the federal government and county and schools facilities closed and public transit ground to a halt.

Arlington County saw numerous trees and wires down, but no injuries or fatalities related to Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy were reported.

"It's pretty horrible out there, and certainly there's been a lot of very strong messaging going out, not just from us, but from FEMA and NOAA and everybody else, that this storm is going to last a long time, and people need to stay safe — and staying safe means staying home," said Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtis at about 10:30 p.m.

"And from what we're seeing, people are really taking that to heart."

Arlington County 911 received 67 storm-related calls between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, plus another 105 calls between 6 and 10 p.m. In the latter timeframe, nearly all of the calls were for firefighter assistance.

Arlington experienced no problems with its 911 system, Curtis said. Verizon, which powers the system and saw widespread failure following the June derecho that tore through this area, told Patch recently that it was ready for Sandy.

County officials knew of no major flooding late Monday. Arlington County Fire Capt. Gregg Karl said water was cascading over portions of Route 50, which can cause hydroplaning.

Among the many warnings to prepare, Arlington County issued this statement in a news release Monday invoking the June storm: "Instead of 24 minutes of dangerous winds, it will be 24 hours of dangerous conditions."

Sunday, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan declared a local emergency and the county activated its Emergency Operations Center.

Power outages began to trickle in around 2:30 p.m. Monday. A few hundred became a few thousand as the day turned to night.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 16 percent of Arlington County was without power. Dominion Virginia Power reported as of 8:45 a.m. that 15,000 customers in Arlington County were in the dark out of 84,656 total customers in the county.

All Arlington Public Schools' facilities will be closed today, along with county government offices, libraries, courts, community centers and nature centers.

Metrorail and Metrobus will not resume this morning. Officials say they will wait until they can make a damage assessment before restoring service.

"Metro will restore service only when it is safe to do so," according to a news release.

ART bus service also will not be available Tuesday. Some news reports indicated area taxis were charging as much as a $15 surcharge, if they were operating at all, to make trips in the storm.

The county and others reminded motorists to treat intersections where traffic signals are out as a four-way stop — and never drive through water flowing across the road.

As of 10:30 p.m. Monday, the county had reports of "a few" traffic signals out, but no hard data, Curtis said.

The county also had reports of some road closures — including Long Bridge Drive, near the new park by the same name — but no specific numbers, Curtis said.

"There's so many trees and wires down that they're just marking them with caution tape and keeping track of them at the communications center," Karl told Patch.

Firefighters and the Fire Marshal's Office started to get busy Monday when the winds and rained picked up in the afternoon, he said.

Arlington firefighters called in extra staff for its fleet, and two teams from the Fire Marshal's Office were running alarm bell calls, Karl said.

"It's kind of a typical hurricane-type day," he said.

Neither the county government nor the Arlington County Fire Department had reports of any serious storm-related injuries or fatalities late Monday. Messages to the police department were not immediately returned.

The county had reports of about 40 downed trees, Curtis told Patch late Monday. That preliminary number likely increased overnight. Karl was aware of "a couple" of reports of trees falling into homes or onto power lines.

Federal, state and local governments warned people repeatedly to stay indoors — messages that were amplified through news outlets and on social media. Emergency responders said that seemed to have an impact.

"After the derecho … it's still fresh in people's minds. So rather than going out and seeing what's going on, people are staying in," Karl said. "They're adhering to the warnings. There's still a number of people out, but definitely not as bad as I've seen in the past."

Arlington County also canceled in-person absentee voting Monday and Tuesday.

"We expect we'll be very busy the rest of the week," Registrar Linda Lindberg told Patch in an email.

The county has been seeing an average of 750 absentee voters on weekdays, and more than 2,100 cast ballots on Saturday ahead of the storm, Lindberg stated. She expects the county will begin to average 1,000 absentee voters on weekdays, which she described as "roughly consistent" with 2008's numbers.

on Monday indicated Arlington residents were reading (possibly by candlelight), cooking or watching movies to while away the hours. The Arlington County Library offered five websites for weather-obsessed kids.

Plenty of people were impressed with the U.S. Postal Service, with several posting pictures online of a mail van in their neighborhoods.

Curtis was scheduled to be at the county's Emergency Operations Center through 6 a.m. today. She said Monday night was "calm."

"It's been very calm," she said. "This has been like a slow, grinding storm. It wasn't like the derecho, which was so sudden and so violent. It's not that intense right now compared to derecho. We keep expecting the numbers to go up on power outages, but that hasn't happened yet."

The county won't begin to calculate a damage estimate until winds subside and crews can go out, she said.

Arlington County activated its Emergency Winter Shelter in advance of the storm. Monday night, 41 individuals were staying there.

The county also established a call-in number for frequent updates on Sandy: 415-655-0811.

Residents are reminded to throw out perishable food after four hours without refrigeration. Tuesday morning, residents are urged to check for downed trees and power lines, and to check on their neighbors, Curtis said.

All downed wires should be treated as live, Karl said. Caution should be used in tree removal in case downed lines are tangled in branches, he said.

"Let the utility guys do their jobs," he said.

The following information is from an Arlington County news release:

Who to Call 

To prepare for a possible power outage, print out or write down these numbers

  • Power outages: Dominion Virginia Power, 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357), or 1-888-667-3000.  (or www.dom.com) 
    • Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly and folks with disabilities
  • Natural gas emergencies: Washington Gas 703-750-1400 or 800-752-7520. If you smell gas, leave and call 9-1-1. Washington Gas Safety Page 
  • Trees Down: 703-228-6525
  • Street flooding, water, sewer and storm-sewer: 703-228-6555 (emergency hotline)
    (Note: During high rains, call volume is often greater than normal. Operators will respond to your call as soon as they can.)
  • Traffic signal outages: 703-228-6511
  • Community assistance: If you are without power, out of food, need shelter or any number of vital services, call 703-228-1300 to get connected to people and organizations that can help.
    • You can also dial 2-1-1 from any phone.
    • For life-threatening emergencies, always call 9-1-1.
  • Internet or Cable TV outages:
  • If you have a life-threatening emergency, always call 911. The non-emergency number (for the Emergency Communications Center) is 703-558-2222.

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