WASHINGTON - While many
Marylanders hunkered down at home in advance of
Hurricane Isabel, many others spent at least some of Thursday at work in
liquor stores, congressional offices and hospitals, among other businesses.
Some did it because they wanted to. Most did it because they had to.
For workers at Montgomery County-run liquor stores, business was brisk
before Thursday's early close at 3 p.m. Like the standard storm essentials
of milk, eggs, water and batteries, some folks seem to be stocking up on
"We're rolling," said Brian Sullivan, manager of the county store in
Leisure World liquor store in Silver Spring. "We're all lined up."
"I think they (customers) feel if they were to get stuck, they'd rather
have a bottle of something rather than be home alone" with nothing to do,
said Michael Henry, a clerk at the Westwood liquor store in Bethesda.
For those who didn't get out Thursday, the county stores are scheduled to
reopen Friday at 2 p.m.
Business was brisk, too, at video stores around the state, with clerks
reporting long lines and, to their surprise, patient customers. Kathy Scott,
a Blockbuster manager in West Ocean City, said she could not remember a time
when the store was busier.
"I think right now we have more people today than we did during the
snowstorm," said Scott, referring to February's blizzard.
Nearly a half-hour before Jack Smithson opened the Blockbuster Video
store in Olney, 20 people were outside waiting to get in.
"It's hectic beyond comparison. Forty percent of the inventory is gone by
now," Smithson said early Thursday afternoon. "I expect 80 to 70 percent of
our inventory to be gone by the end of the day."
For other workers, Thursday was just another day on the job -- albeit
with a few extra precautions. At some post offices, for example, workers
were allowed to come in one hour earlier than usual so that they could
finish work earlier and try to get home ahead of the worst of the storm.
"I'm only concerned about my trip home later," said Lennie Jones, a
postal supervisor in Prince George's County. "I think I have everything else
I need at my disposal."
The post office in Pike has taken preventive measures, such as having
plenty of water and power generators available, as well as a hotline number
providing information about the hurricane.
"This is what we were supposed to do," said the postmaster, who declined
to give her name.
Other people who didn't have to be at work Thursday were apparently
taking a cue from the Postal Service and slogging ahead.
"Neither snow nor rain nor Isabel was going to stop us from having this
hearing today," said David Marin, a spokesman for the House Committee on
Government Reform. Even though the federal government was largely shut
down and Metro closed early, the committee went ahead with a scheduled
morning hearing on the Government Performance and Results Act, wrapping
up before noon.
"We have an ambitious hearing schedule this fall," Marin said.
The workload was the reason that Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Montgomery,
said he decided to risk a trip to the office Thursday, along with staffers
who could make it in.
"I had a lot of work that had to get done," Van Hollen said, adding that
with the Appropriations bill being considered, "we wanted to make sure we're
looking out for our constituents at this time."
Aides to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, also said constituent service
brought them to work in the face of a hurricane.
"The weather alert said the morning should be fine," said Devika
Koppikar, Cummings' press secretary. "In continuing to serve our
constituents, we came in."
Like many offices Thursday, Cummings's office closed at noon. For others,
there was no going home early -- or going home at all.
Calvert Memorial Hospital in Prince Frederick brought in extra staff for
the hurricane, and many of them planned to stay overnight Thursday so they
would not have to fight their way back in Friday, said hospital spokeswoman
Kasia Drozynski. She said staying overnight was not mandatory, but those who
did so got extra compensation and had day care available for their children.
"We're working very hard to make sure everybody stays safe," Drozynski
said. "The staff has really been pitching in."
Insurance agents were working yesterday, but most planned on heading home
before the worst of Isabel struck the area.
"The plan is to close down at 2 o'clock," said Bill Conway, an Allstate
agent who commutes from Columbia to Laurel for work. "When you're an
insurance agent, the weather sort of makes you busier than normal."
Other agents planned to tough it out for as long as possible.
"When the weather gets really bad, then I'll leave. But I'm here to help
the clients," said Regina Price, an Erie Insurance Group agent in Rockville.
For agents like Barbara Harders, of Erie Insurance Group in Silver
Spring, the work is just beginning. She said Erie is bringing in "tons" of
agents from Pennsylvania and has a mobile van, with generator backup, that
will be the center of operations.
Help was not on the way for all workers. At 11 a.m., A.J. Perrin sat in
the small control box on the drawbridge over Spa Creek in Annapolis, where
he had been sitting since 8 a.m., waiting for a replacement that might not
come if the Bay Bridge shut down too early.
Since no boats were expected to be out trying to pass the bridge, there
was nothing for Perrin to do but sit and wait. He said he had been given no
instructions other than to wait.
"I'm trying to get home before it starts," Perrin said. "I may need to
stay here longer."
-- CNS reporters Jeremy Bond, Cheryl Johnston, Alex Meneses Miyashita,
Marisa Navarro, January Payne, Makeba Scott Hunter and Dan Wilcock
contributed to this story.
2003 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of
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