Baltimore meets Hurricane Irene

BGE crews work to replace power lines after a tree fell, taking out the lines and blocking Frederick Road near Dutton Avenue in Catonsville Sunday morning. (Staff Photo by Paul Milton / August 27, 2011)

Sunday, Aug. 28, 5:30 p.m. — County ExecutiveKevin Kamenetz and Director of Public Works Edward Adams Jr. were out surveying damage from Hurricane Irene on Sunday afternoon, including a tree that fell on a house in Stoneleigh.

"Our folks are working pretty hard now that we're in the recovery stage," Kamenetz said as he toured the neighborhood.

Kamenetz said he had been toOwings Mills, Cockeysville, andTowson before arriving in Stoneleigh, and was headed next to the eastern part of the county.

As of about 5:36 p.m., BGE reported 134,760Baltimore County customers without power. The city had 68,941, and BGE had 439,761 customers without power systemwide.


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About the same time, county officials reported that power had been restored to Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Sheppard Pratt Health Systems andSt. Joseph Medical Center.

Overall, BGE had restored electric service to more than 177,000 customers. However the utility expects the restoration effort to continue for at least the next several days. 

Officials said that in addition to tree debris which fell onto power lines and other equipment during Hurricane Irene, new outages continue as a result of high wind, which is causing trees already weakened by the hurricane and sitting in saturated ground to fall.

Kamenetz said that he's been in contact with the president of BGE, who is trying to secure additional work crews to help the restoration efforts.

"BGE is working hard on this," he said, noting that the utility is, "trying to get linemen from as far away as Texas, but it will take a while for them to get here."

As of Sunday afternoon, the county executive said the lack of electricity was the principal concern for the county, especially with the school year slated to begin Monday.

Later, at about 4:30 p.m., school officials announced officially that the start of the school year would be delayed, as some 65 school facilities were without power as of Sunday afternoon.

While the schools are a concern for county residents, BGE said it will continue to service locations that it determined before the storm would be priorities, such as emergency services, pumping stations and water treatment plants.

The schools "aren't a part of the critical facilities list," BGE spokeswoman Rachel Lighty said Sunday afternoon. "At this point, they're not considered priority."

Cleanup continuing across county

Otherwise, Kamenetz said efforts recovery efforts were going well.

County work crews were out clearing fallen trees from the road, though some crews are stuck waiting at trees with wires tangled up in them until BGE crews arrive to cut power to the area.

The county is also working to remove fallen trees on resident's properties that are located within the 10-foot right-of-way.

Across the county, Kamenetz said about 75 homes reported flooding. County firefighters are working to pump those homes out. There were also limited police activities, with "no real emergency calls" for the county police department, he said.

Adams said flooding wasn't as bad as was expected.

He said he was inDundalk with his flashlight around 5 a.m. looking for flooding, but didn't see much. He returned around 9 a.m. to make sure he hadn't missed anything, but found much less flooding than last weekend's thunderstorms brought the area.

With reverse tidal affect created by Irene, the storm's heavy rains were able to drain into the bay without the extensive flooding of Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003. Instead, it was the wind and rain that caused the bulk of the damage across the county.

Fifth District Councilman David Marks was also in the Towson area surveying Irene's damage on Sunday.

"I drove fromPerry Hall to Towson, and the worst tree damage seemed to be in Loch Raven Village and Rodgers Forge," Marks said.

On Drumwood Road in Loch Raven Village, Marks saw a fallen tree across the road that had landed on a car. But he said he was bolstered by scenes of neighbors pitching in to help one another

"Everywhere I went, I saw neighbors helping each other, clearing branches and debris from the streets," Marks said.

The county said it had changed the phone number for people reporting fallen trees: the new number is 410-887-2523. Call 911 to report any fallen power lines.

In Lutherville, a downed tree crashed into a home overnight on Norman Avenue, and felled trees blocked countless roads in the county, including Sudbrook Road in Pikesville, Murdock Road in Rodgers Forge and Falls Road near Padonia.

One of the more dramatic incidents occurred in the Brooklandville area at about 3:34 a.m. on Keller Avenue, as rescue workers freed a man who had been trapped in his home when a tree fell through the roof of his home.

The Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company used a crane on its rescue truck to stabilize trees that had fallen on the home while the an, who was conscious, was aided by first responders.

The Fire Department's Advanced Tactical Rescue Team, Brooklandville's Engine 14 and the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company's Heavy Rescue Squad responded to that incident. The man was transported to a medical facility. A female patient who was not trapped has been transported to Sinai Trauma. There was no immediate word on their condition.

In Catonsville, business district was quiet

The power outage that affected much ofBaltimore County closed stores along Frederick Road in Catonsville and left traffic lights powerless at Sunday morning. The 1700 block of Frederick Road was shut down as workers did work to the electrical lines.

Catonsville resident Joon Kim said he lost power around midnight.

"It was worse than I thought (it would be)," Kim said as he walked along Frederick Road. "I called BGE, and they said they don't know the estimated time it (will be back on)."

On Frederick Road, Tracy and Nick Devine walked with their daughter, Maya, who turns 1 years old next week, in search of coffee — but couldn't find a place that was open.

"We thought Atwater's might utilize the French Press, and we'd get an even better cup of coffee, but no luck," Tracy said.

Their home didn't suffer any damage in the storm, but they lost power and their yard was covered in downed branches, Nick said.

"We were able to take care of the smaller stuff," Nick said. "But with the larger stuff, we're going to ask for our friends help to get a chain saw."

The yard work will likely wait, because the Devines have other plans for the rest of the day.

"Maybe (we'll) get together with some friends and eat the food that we need to eat out of the fridge and drink the beers that we need to drink and hang out," Nick said.

Lights, business in limbo in Arbutus, with exceptions

In Arbutus, many of the traffic lights along Sulphur Spring Road were out and most of the businesses along East Drive were closed as downtown Arbutus dealt with a power outage at noon Sunday.

On the outskirts of Arbutus, every traffic signal on Washington Boulevard going south from Sulphur Spring Road to the Howard County border was out, with the exception of one at the intersection with Ridge Avenue.

The downtown area wasn't completely powerless, though, as a smattering of businesses along the strip on East Drive had power as did several of the traffic lights.

Kenny Ohl, co-owner of Ravin' Maniacs on East Drive, was one of the few businesses open and with power.

"We're the only one in the area that has power for whatever reason," said Ohl, a Lansdowne resident.

At home, Ohl said he lost power over night, but it was back on by the morning.

Not all of the business owners were so lucky.

Only a few doors down, the owner of Pizza Paradise, also on East Drive, said he lost power sometime between when he went home at 2 a.m. And came back eight hours later.

The owner, who chose to be identified as Ali, said he tried calling BGE, but only got a busy signal.

At noon, he stood outside his East Drive business speaking with Hasan Shea, who owns the Apex gas station.

"My neighbor gave me information that BGE people said after a couple days you will get electricity," Shea said. "A lot of people came in for gas, but now I closed it because I'm helpless."

At the Mars supermarket at Westland Boulevard and Maiden Choice Lane, the parking lot was eerily empty.

A steady stream of hopeful customers turned into the shopping center lot — then turned around after seeing the darkened store and locked doors.

Signs of the storm's power were also evident along Sulphur Spring Road.

The stretch of road that included Arbutus Elementary School and the rear entrance of Arbutus Middle School showed few signs of last night's storm. But numerous trees that bordered the road leading to the complex that includes the Arbutus Library, Arbutus Senior Center and Arbutus Recreation Center were down. Several landed across the fencing along the street.

At the rec center, an uprooted tree lay on its side, its muddy roots drying in the much-anticipated afternoon sun.

Precautions against sewage backups at Cedar Beach

Late Sunday morning, the county sent out an alert to the citizens of the Cedar Beach area in eastern Baltimore County, telling them the Department of Public Works would be turning off the circuit breakers for grinder pumps to homes in that area.

The shutoff was necessary, officials said, to avoid sewage back ups when the power is restored. The Department of Public Works will re-activate the circuit breakers when power is restored. No action by homeowners is necessary at this time, officials said.

Residents of that area are asked to call 410-887-5210 with questions concerning this issue.

Bay Bridge and State Fair open

Maryland Transportation Authority reopened the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (US 50/301) and the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Sunday.

For a complete list of lane closures due to Hurricane Irene, visit http://www.md511.org or http://www.chart.md.gov. Through these websites, Internet users can see the storm from the state's bank of traffic cameras.

Meanwhile, the Maryland State Fair reopened on Sunday at noon after closing Saturday evening. Horse racing, however, was canceled for the day.

Jim Joyner contributed to this story.