Montgomery County Derecho Response
CHHS Supports Montgomery County Response to Derecho
Late in the evening of Friday, June 29, 2012, the majority of Maryland was struck by a powerful straight line windstorm, also known as a “derecho.” Montgomery County experienced some of the most severe damage in the state. To compound the effects of the derecho, Montgomery County was also experiencing an extreme heat event; for several days after the storm hit, the county faced a heat wave where daily temperatures reached over 95 degrees. In response to these events, Montgomery County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated from June 29, 2012 at 11:00 p.m. through July 8, 2012.
Within minutes of the EOC being activated, CHHS began providing staff support to Montgomery County. Health Program Manager Earl Stoddard, Policy Analyst Mehrab Karim, and former staffer Lauren Miller worked in the EOC throughout the activation. They assisted in all areas of the response, including monitoring power outages in critical facilities, maintaining accurate records for situational awareness and the forthcoming After Action Report, and interfacing with various county agencies and partners to expedite the response efforts.
The impacts of the derecho were extensive. Within one hour of the storm hitting Montgomery County, 135,000 residents were confirmed without power. That number swelled to some 238,000 customers without power in the aftermath of the windstorm. While activated, the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS) collaborated with other county departments and entities such as the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO), and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). Although PEPCO’s entire service area had been impacted, the majority (77%) of the customers without power resided in Montgomery County. During the EOC activation, representatives of county agencies were present, along with representatives from PEPCO and WSSC; they worked around the clock for over a week to coordinate recovery efforts until power was fully restored in the county.
The county government was open on Monday July 2, 2012, despite the fact that 71 county facilities were without power, and 550 traffic signals were still not functioning due to lack of power. Although the July 4th Fireworks had to be cancelled, the county’s agencies implemented their Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans and were successful in sustaining operations pending full restoration of power. The hours were long and the work difficult, but the county succeeded in responding quickly and efficiently to an unprecedented and unexpected event.