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Sandy not changing weekend plans in north Baltimore — yet

Mount Washington Tavern readies reopening; Halloween events still on

By Larry Perl, lperl@tribune.com

3:29 PM EDT, October 28, 2012

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Just as Mt. Washington Tavern prepares to reopen after a fire last year, here comes Hurricane Sandy, with the potential to wreak havoc in the region, especially in areas like Mount Washington, near the flood-prone Jones Falls.

But restaurant co-owner Rob Frisch, whose restaurant sits across the street from the Jones Falls, said Friday, Oct. 26 that he's "not terribly worried" — at least not yet.

Even before the fire, "The water never came up over the parking lot, and when we rebuilt the building, we raised everything up 10 inches" in compliance with state code, he said.

As for the new building, where work crews were finishing up, "We're all watertight now," Frisch said.

A media preview scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 30 has been postponed until the following Monday, Nov. 5, not because of the impending storm but because of a delay in getting an elevator in the new building inspected, he said.

Storm or no storm, Frisch figures he and co-owner Dave Lichty are as ready as they can be.

"I guess we'll be put to the test," he said.

'Potential to be one of the worst storms'

Also about to be put to the test is Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., which is still trying to calm communities that were impacted by a rare and sudden derecho storm in June which left many residents in the area without power for as long as a week afterward. BGE is trying to bring in an extra 2,000 out-of-state workers ahead of Hurricane Sandy that BGE spokesman Robert Gould said could be huge.

"Frankly, this storm has the potential to be one of the worst storms we've ever seen," Gould said. With winds expected to reach 60 to 70 mph Monday, "We will likely see the beginning of (electricity) restoration delayed," he said. "You really can't be putting crews up in buckets" to work on lines.

BGE representatives met with the Roland Park Civic League earlier this month to respond to complaints of persistent power outages on some streets, even before the derecho hit Roland Park and Hampden particularly hard. BGE officials told the league they are formulating a plan and reviewing options ranging from enhanced tree trimming to replacing overhead lines with underground cable.

The officials told the league Oct. 4 that BGE could have a plan in place as early as November.

"We estimate in four to six weeks we should be able to come up with a solution," said Stuart Page, an engineer in BGE's customer reliability and support group.

But that would come too late to help the area cope with Hurricane Sandy, and Gould said there's no short-term relief BGE can provide to Roland Park specifically.

"We're gearing up at a macro level," Gould said.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who has criticized BGE in the wake of the June storm and led efforts to improve communication between the utility company and communities, agreed BGE will have its hands full regionally.

"Their eyes are watching God," Clarke said. "All we can do is know who to call — and duck."

Phil Spevak, president of the Roland Park Civic League, said he is satisfied with BGE's outreach to the community so far.

But he added, "How they're going to perform in this storm is hopefully going to be better. They've had more input and more time to prepare. And I think the community has learned something" about preparation.

Meanwhile, many events planned for this weekend, including Halloween parades and festivals, are still on, community leaders said.

In Remington, the annual Hauntingdon festival on Huntingdon Avenue, featuring a haunted house, six cakes and 12,000 pieces of candy, will go on as scheduled Saturday, Oct. 27.

"It's only supposed to drizzle tomorrow, if that," said Judith Kunst, president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association, which is sponsoring Hauntingdon. Kunst said she would cover the six cakes donated by Charm City Cakes and that porches and a planned haunted house involved in the festival are already covered.

In Oakenshawe, the annual Halloween parade Saturday is still a go — "carefully planned to beat the approaching storm," Mark Counselman, president of the Oakenshawe Improvement Association, said in an email to residents.

Also not canceled yet are non-Halloween events, including Saturday afternoon's Tunes @ the Tower, a fundraiser to repair the Roland Park Water Tower, and the 2012 Baltimore Sleep-out for the Homeless, sponsored by Catholic Charities, in which 150 students from Gilman and other high schools around the area will sleep out near Interstate 83 in makeshift dwellings.

But Catholic Charities spokesman Bob Keenan said that if the storm arrives earlier than expected, the students will move inside the nearby shelter Our Daily Bread and "the sleep-out will become a sleep-in."

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