Manassas Journal Messenger | Area prepared in event of blackout, officials say

Only three flights destined for New York City, originating in Florida, were diverted to Dulles International Airport Thursday, regional aviation authorities said. Area airports were not significantly delayed as a result of the major power outage that crippled the Northeast during a blistering heat wave.

Dulles is able to handle the largest planes in the world and can route significant volumes of traffic given its size. It is in both Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

“There wouldn’t be any diversions into National,” said Tara Hamilton, public affairs manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority. “The most obvious impact is the shuttle from National to LaGuardia.”

U.S. Airways runs daily shuttles between the two cities. Once the power went out, 15 shuttle flights to New York from Washington airports were canceled, leaving many business travelers stranded between the two cities, which are about 250 miles apart.

“At this point we’re not expecting a major impact on our airports,” Hamilton said, emphasizing that the overall impact depended on when and where the power came back.

Hamilton didn’t expect a ripple-effect to snarl air traffic in a major way. Some flights that came to Washington were scheduled to go through a city whose power was out first.

Amtrak officials did not immediately return calls late Thursday.

While others in the country suffer through power outages, local utilities and hospitals say there is little to worry about in Prince William County.

“We are in good condition,” said Dan Genest, Dominion Virginia Power spokesman.

“We have not been affected. We are able to generate electricity and serve our customers,” Genest said. “At this point we are not involved with anything that’s going on up in New York.”

Virginians get their power from companies that produce the power locally, Genest said, and are unaffected by problems elsewhere.

“The ones that are located here in Virginia are designed to serve customers in Virginia,” Genest said of Dominion’s power plants.

“We have enough capacity to meet the needs of our customers,” he said.

Likewise, the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative crews are prepared to jump if they need to, but so far they have not been mobilized, said Mike Curtis, NOVEC spokesman.

“NOVEC is not anticipating at this point, based on the information that we have, any problems as a result of what’s going on in New York,” Curtis said.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely and have concerns as I’m sure other utilities do, but at this point we’re not anticipating any problems,” he said.

“As always we have people prepared, if we do have outages, to respond to them, but at this point in time we’re actually having crews on standby. As more information becomes available, certainly we could change that, but at the moment it’s not something we’re expecting to affect us,”

Tom Knight of Potomac Hospital and Mary Gibson of Prince William Hospital said their outfits are prepared for emergency as well.

“We’re on generator power for our critical care patients,” said Knight, the administrative nursing coordinator at Potomac Hospital.

“Our operating room, emergency room and all those areas are on emergency power, because we’ve had power outages before,” he said.

Gibson said that the response of Prince William emergency workers, county government and hospitals has benefited from the county’s proximity to the Pentagon.

Everyone is well-trained for disaster. “We’ve had a series of disaster drills and every time we step it up. We’re in contact with the other hospitals. There’s a coalition of hospitals and the goal is to work together,” said Gibson, Prince William Hospital spokeswoman.

“If something happened, we could have an exchange of facts and if we had to we could have an exchange of staff,” she said.

“Everybody would be on task and able to step in,” Gibson said.

“If we had a power outage and people were injured, absolutely we would be able to handle it,” she said.

Besides, Gibson said, people tend to rise to the occasion when there is a need. “People pull together phenomenally,” she said.

“Emergency happens and the good in people really shines,” she said.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063. Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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