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Outages Blast Northwest Virginia

The exceptionally hot and humid summer weather climaxed on last Wednesday evening with a thunderstorm that resulted in thousands of power outages in Northwest Virginia.

Between 5-6 p.m., July 27, an intense thunderstorm struck the area. As soon as the conditions lessened, Dominion Virginia Power sent out crews to assess the scope of the damage, said Karl Neddenien, spokesman for the power company.

The lightning and high winds coupled with tree limbs coming into contact with power lines caused scattered outages for the power company's customers.

Dominion has 2.2 million customers. In Northwest Virginia alone, 4,600 customers were affected by power outages as a result of Wednesday's storm. "That's a good record," he said. "But we have a very reliable electrical distribution system."

By the morning of Thursday, July 28, nearly all power was restored.

Dominion responds to power outages by first fixing the problems that will bring power to the most amount of customers. "Our goal is to restore power to the greatest number of customers in the least amount of time," Neddenien said.

This summer has not had an exceptional number of power outages; however, the weather conditions have been different than summers past.

A record amount of power usage was set on June 14 and July 25-27, Neddenien said. The peak demand for electricity was 18,360 megawatts Tuesday, July 27, which broke the previous record of 17,305 megawatts just days before on July 19.

To support stability and help alleviate the heavy electricity demand, PJM, a regional transmission organization, in conjunction with Dominion, initiated a temporary 5 percent voltage reduction Wednesday afternoon.

There is little that can be done to decrease the risk of power outages in storms and the hot weather. Dominion stressed that its crews are prepared and equipment ready to respond to power outages.

To conserve energy during periods of heavy demand, Dominion and PJM offer the following suggestions:

* Close curtains and blinds to keep out the sun and retain cooler air inside;

* Postpone using major electric appliances, such as stoves, dishwashers and clothes dryers until the cooler evening hours;

* If health permits, set the air conditioner thermostat higher than usual;

* Turn off nonessential electric appliances and equipment;

* Turn off unnecessary incandescent lights during hot weather. They add to heat in the home. Consider switching to cooler, energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs where light is needed;

* Use ceiling fans and portable floor fans to move the air around the home. If the home does not have air conditioning, fans are essential for cooling. In homes with air conditioning, fans allow residents to raise the thermostat and save energy without affecting comfort;

* Make sure window air conditioners are sized correctly. Those that are too small will run constantly but not cool the room. Those that are too large use more energy than necessary;

* Clean filters to window air conditioning units or clean or replace filters to central air conditioning systems. Clogged filters cause air conditioners to use more energy to keep rooms or homes cool;

* Clear attic vents. If the home has an attic fan, make sure it is functioning properly.