WASHINGTON – Woodley Park neighborhood residents won’t have to worry about loose seals in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. There was no damage at the National Zoo,Linda St. Thomas,a spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian staff members were prepared for the hurricane,St. Thomas said.
“They had their sandbags,their generators ready,” she said. “They had people ready to do double shifts if their replacement shift couldn’t come in.”
Several vets and zookeepers were at the zoo or on call throughout the hurricane,and Smithsonian museums had engineers,electricians and plumbers ready to tackle any storm-related challenges. Like a few employees at other federal agencies,they were deemed “essential” federal workers.
In addition to the zoo,federal government buildings were closed on Monday and Tuesday. Some essential federal employees returned to work in the midst of the storm,and other employees took advantage of technology to work from home or a remote office.
Federal workers are expected to report to work Wednesday.
Approximately 300,000 federal employees work in Washington and the surrounding counties,wrote Thomas Richards,the director of communications of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management,in an email to the SHFWire.
Federal agencies are advised by OPM to designate essential employees in advance of a crisis,according to the OPM handbook on Area Dismissals and Closures.
The cost of closing is hard to measure.
“There is no good way for us to calculate with any accuracy the cost of closing federal government buildings,” Richards wrote. “New technologies allow federal employees to work from home,and some will find ways to make up their work at no cost to the federal government.”
Unlike the administrative branch,the Supreme Court remained open to hear oral arguments Monday. The court heard arguments in two cases,one at 10 and one at 11 a.m.,before closing due to weather at 2 p.m.,Kathleen Arberg,chief spokeswoman for the court,said.
The court closed Tuesday,but will be open as scheduled Wednesday. Tuesday’s arguments will be heard on Thursday.
Arberg said that it was business as usual in the courtroom Monday,and the storm did not strongly affect the number of people hearing arguments.
“It may have been that the numbers were down from a usual day,but the courtroom was filled with people,” Arberg said.
The Senate held a “pro forma” session late Tuesday,which usually consists of one senator gaveling the Senate into session and out again in a matter of minutes.
Reach reporter Matt Nelson at [email protected] or 202-408-2735. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.