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Isabel Snaps Trees, Power Lines

Hurricane Isabel left her mark on the Town of Herndon Thursday night. The high winds and soaking rain resulted in several trees and power lines coming down all over town, plunging several neighborhoods into darkness.

As of 12:30 p.m., Tuesday afternoon, Dominion Virginia Power was still reporting 531 customers in town waiting for power to be restored. In all, about 45,000 Herndon customers out of 96,000 were affected by the outages, said Bob Fulton, a media relations coordinator for the power company.

"WE HAD SIX [traffic] lights with generators," said Senior Sgt. Jerry Keys of the Herndon Police Department. "There were two or three different locations where roads were shut down."

One of those locations was Monroe Street, where large trees fell, tearing down power lines in front of the Herndon Swim Club. The street had to be closed because the lines came to rest across the roadway and the entire neighborhood went dark.

Keys said that as of Monday, he had not heard of an injuries as a result of the storm, however, there were several cases of cars being crushed by falling debris.

A large tree at the corner of Locust and Spring street barely missed the Community Christian Church when it fell and several smaller trees throughout town littered yards and streets.

"We increased staffing and had people rotating at EOC [the county's Emergency Operations Center]," Keys said.

Keys said the department raised its security level up one, while the town government decided before the storm hit to give all non-essential employees Friday off.

"We didn't think there would be too many people wanting to buy town stickers that day. There were some who worked throughout the storm. We had enough people on hand to take care of any problems," said Steve Owen, the town manager. "We were fearful some employees couldn't get to work. We were also expecting to lose power."

Owen said key personnel reported to work Friday and preparations were made ahead of time to ensure crucial locations had backup power sources.

IN ADDITION, before the storm hit, town employees began battening down the hatches.

"We had crews pick up anything that wasn't bolted down, trash cans, even campaign signs, which we stored if any of the campaigns want them back," Owen said. "We did a clean sweep of everything that could blow away. Even port-o-johns at construction sites and temporary cones and barriers."

Overall, compared to other neighboring jurisdictions, Owen said Herndon was spared major flooding and other complications. "We lost a lot of trees, but it could have been worse," he said.

The town officials will use the storm as a learning experience. Owen said key personnel held a "debriefing" Tuesday and the lessons learned will be incorporated into the town's emergency plan.

"There were some surprises," Owen said. "Mostly with communication, making sure people had the cell phone numbers they needed, coordinating when we would switch to cell phones, that sort of thing. Overall, I thought it went pretty well."

THE RED CROSS, National Capital Area Chapter, activated several of its volunteers to help out in the four shelters that were open Thursday night throughout the county. Courtney Prebich, media relations coordinator, said many of the volunteers came from the Red Cross office on Herndon Parkway, however, there were no specific efforts staged within town limits.

"Our volunteers have primarily been sent to the Alexandria area, in Belle Haven, where all the flooding occurred. They've been providing food and support," Prebich said.

She added the organization needs donations to continue to help those who have been made homeless because of the storm. To make a donation, call 800-HELP-NOW.