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Hurricane Sandy began backing up its threats Monday night, unleashing high winds that knocked out power to thousands across Virginia.
Dominion Virginia Power reported almost 100,000 customers without power in the state as of 8:30 p.m., with 89,000 of those in its Northern Virginia region. The Rappahannock, Northern Neck and Northern Virginia electric cooperatives, which serve parts of the Fredericksburg region, reported about 30,000 outages combined.
County breakdowns by the utilities indicated more than 12,000 homes and businesses in the Fredericksburg area were without power last night. Much of Colonial Beach was dark as of 8 p.m.
Outages were expected to increase overnight as Sandy's winds gained force.
Gov. Bob McDonnell directed some National Guard troops to the northern part of the state, where the storm's impact was expected to be the worst and last the longest. McDonnell said power outages were expected to become "much more significant" overnight and through today.
The National Weather Service in Sterling said people in the Fredericksburg area can expect today to be cold, wet and windy. The forecast called for sustained winds of 40 mph this morning, gusting to 65 mph. The winds should diminish to 30 mph by afternoon with gusts topping out at 50 mph.
The federal government, Virginia Railway Express, Metro and local school systems are closed again today.
McDonnell said he has applied for expedited federal public assistance for some aspects of storm preparation and damage.
Virginia Department of Emergency Management coordinator Michael Cline said that would cover debris clearance and first responders. Individual assistance to people whose homes or property is damaged by the storm could come later.
handling early voting
McDonnell said state officials are continuing to monitor the storm's impact on in-person absentee voting. Local voter registrars have been asked to stay open during the storm if it's safe, and McDonnell said most were open Monday, although about 20 had closed.
He said he'll ask registrars to extend their hours after the storm to make up for time in which they were closed. State Board of Elections secretary Don Palmer said elections officials will work to make a uniform policy about extended hours after the storm.
"There is plenty of time to vote," Palmer said.
NATIONAL GUARD READY
The Virginia Army National Guard and the Virginia Defense Force have positioned soldiers and equipment in Fredericksburg, at the National Guard Armory, in Richmond, the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads to help with high-water transport, removing storm debris and patrols where needed.
The Guard had not received requests for help as of Monday evening but was standing by, officials said, as the worst of Hurricane Sandy approached.
More than 600 soldiers are on call. Their response will be directed by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Staff reporter Rusty Dennen
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028
"Virginians are going to need help," McDonnell said in a news release. He said state, local and federal governments will do what they can to assist in recovery efforts after the storm, "but there is more that must be done."
Donations can be made online at https://payments.vi.virginia.gov/donatenow.