Hurricane Sandy Dispatch: The Washington D.C. Area Prepares for the Hit

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Elizabeth Dias

A Giant store in Arlington, Va. Many area stores sold out of water on Friday.

Old town Alexandria, on the western bank of the Potomac southwest of Washington, has a history of flooding. On Sunday, the city of Alexandria set up a sandbag distribution drive-thru down by the waterfront. Each city resident can pick up five free sandbags with a valid Alexandria drivers license. So far the city has distributed three truckloads of sandbags. Starbucks on the waterfront is waiting for its own sandbag delivery to arrive, and the barista told customers they would be open until the water came up into the store.

PSE&G, the electric company, has spent $28 million trimming trees, all part of pre-Sandy preparation. Last year, Hurricanes Irene and Alfred cost the utility company over $1 billion in damages, much of which came from downed trees. (Washington D.C. has put out guidance for the storm as well as a Twitter hashtag #SandyDC so people can follow developments.)

(PHOTOS: Hurricane Sandy Wreaks Havoc in Caribbean)

Many grocery stores sold out of water on Friday. I went to a Harris Teeter on Saturday, and the water section was completely cleaned out. I found one 24-pack still in a cardboard box, and the manager said I could buy it, but she was going to sell it for $1.19/bottle instead of in bulk as normal. Giant was also sold out. I bought some of the last bulk packs of bottled water at a CVS, where employees started to reserve some of them for themselves when they saw the pile vanishing.

Residents seem to be more aware this year about how to prepare for Sandy after Irene and the summer derecho took many by surprise. (That blast of band of storms devastated the D.C. area lasted only minutes; Sandy could hang around two to three days.) Personal prep has included the following: tying down outside furniture, charging all electronic devices, gathering candles/matches, doing laundry and vacuuming (in case power goes out), unplugging electronics in case of power surges. In the giant storm this summer, my apartment lost power for six days, and electrical surges destroyed our internet router, television, and damaged our laundry machines. We are also eating through our freezer so we don’t end up wasting food if the power goes out–we lost a couple hundred dollars worth of food that way this summer. We are still figuring out where to park our cars since there are trees on most streets near our townhouse. We may actually park them in garages for the next few days if we can’t find free open street parking. Our neighbors are out of town for two weeks, and we put all their outdoor chairs/decor in our garage as well to prevent them from flying into their windows–or ours.

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