His staff, hoping to reduce future conflicts, is talking to local governments, developers, nurseries and individual customers about what can safely be planted near power lines. Fruit trees and "profoundly" flowering trees such as the dogwood are good because they don't typically grow to problematic heights. Bad: silver maples, white pines and other fast growers with weak wood.

Many huge trees in the no-no category can be found in Pikesville. Planted decades ago, they've since "overtaken the system," Gould said.

Trimming can't prevent all power outages during a hurricane, but BGE sees it as a way to reduce their number and length.

So, too, do the property owners who have elected to trim or remove their own trees in hopes of improving electric reliability.

Sister Ellen Carr, administrative director for the Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi at Clare Court in Baltimore, said the "volunteer" trees that sprung up years ago outside the nuns' fence — but, unbeknown to the order, on its property — have such shallow roots that they're quite precarious. Tree experts said 19 needed to come down. Others required trimming.

The discovery didn't come without pangs.

"We are Franciscan, and Franciscans are very, very concerned about nature," Carr said.

Tree removal isn't cheap, either, and the sisters wouldn't even have the satisfaction of improving their own electric reliability — Clare Court doesn't rely on the power lines near those trees. But Carr said she couldn't stand by while her neighbors were "so incredibly vulnerable."

"Obviously, it was our responsibility, and once we realized it was our responsibility, we had to take action," she said.

Clarke, the councilwoman who represents the area, said Rexmere Road always seemed to lose power in storms. The derecho knocked out desperately needed air conditioning during a heat wave.

She's delighted the tree-cutting worked.

"It made all the difference," Clarke said.



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