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Mobile stations recharging Alexandria storm victims

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With thousands still in the dark after severe storms clobbered the D.C. region, mobile call stations are helping storm victims reboot - literally.

Thursday afternoon, Verizon deployed one of its relief trucks in Alexandria to help combat its spotty service.

Patrick McLaughlin arrived at the calling center, which is located across from T.C. Williams High School on King Street, armed with electronics, ready to recharge.

“Since I've changed everything from U.S. Mail to Internet-type access, of course you've got to pay your bills this way,” he said.

Besides doing that, he also came with questions: When will service be restored?

“I thought with some Verizon representatives here, they might be able to give me more complete information, but that wasn't case,” McLaughlin said.

Last week’s storm created both technical and mechanical problems at Verizon’s Arlington facility.

“We’re returning to normalcy pretty quick,” said Stuart Burson with Verizon Wireless Satellite Solutions Group. “The purpose of this unit here is to give those victims the opportunity if they can't come in and place a phone-call from their home, they can do so here or they can get on the Internet here.”

“That has a significant impact on your life because that's part of your food, safety and shelter,” he added.

Burson said Verizon is updating its facilities to better stand up to Mother Nature, but when a disaster does strike, the jumbo calling stations help to ease the blow.

The station in Alexandria just came from a wildfire in Colorado Springs. It has 24 compartments inside, each with a laptop and phone you can use to call anywhere in the world without spending a dime. They also provide plugs to connect to any other devices people may have.

In Laurel, Md, a Duracell charging center outside the Lowe’s on Baltimore Avenue is giving the powerless there a similar boost. The center offers patrons free wireless Internet and batteries.

The Verizon mobile calling center will be stationed near T.C. Williams High School again on Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. It will them move to the Alexandria Waterfront to act as a cooling center during the Founder’s Day celebration on Saturday.

As for questions about the outage, Verizon issued the following statement Thursday: “We will continue to devote the necessary resources until service is restored to all our customers.”

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