By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
10:43 PM EDT, July 16, 2013
Disruptions to two underground electrical cables have left hundreds of residents in Fells Point and Canton without power or air conditioning as Baltimore experiences one of the hottest stretches of the summer and city officials warn of the potential for heat-related illnesses.
On Tuesday morning, a blown fuse on an electrical line in the area of Poppleton and Hollins Market disrupted power to hundreds more. That outage has been fixed.
In Fells Point, power was restored for about 380 customers by 1 p.m. Tuesday, though a separate problem — a blown overhead transformer — briefly knocked out power to 900 customers in the neighborhood again Tuesday evening, said Rachael Lighty, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman.
"Work underground can be really time-intensive," she said, because problems can be difficult to locate and fix. The power went out again for about 400 customers in Fells Point again in the evening and had not been restored as of 11 p.m., according to BGE's website.
Repair work took longer than initial estimates. The resulting confusion left some residents frustrated and scrambling to keep cool and prevent food from spoiling.
Ben Foote, 32, left work at midday Tuesday to return to his rowhouse in the 500 block of S. Belnord Ave. in Canton to put dry ice in the refrigerator. His wife, Sara, and 1-month-old son, Lennon, had left for a friend's home in White Marsh.
Foote said the family spent the night on a futon in the basement, the coolest place to sleep.
"It wasn't ungodly uncomfortable, but it wasn't convenient, to say the least," he said.
The first outage occurred in the Upper Fells Point area, near Patterson Park, about 6:30 p.m. Monday, initially knocking out power to about 700 customers, Lighty said.
A second outage occurred in the Canton area, knocking out power to about 180 customers. Their power was restored for a few hours before going out again, and it remained off as of about 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Lighty said the problems involved two underground cables.
BGE crews worked through Monday night in Fells Point and began work on the problem in Canton early Tuesday.
The crews are working to identify the cause of the disruptions, but "heat can certainly be a factor in causing issues," Lighty said.
Their workload grew again about 9 a.m. Tuesday when a fuse blew on a piece of equipment in the Poppleton and Hollins Market area that temporarily knocked out power to nearly 600 residents. Power was restored to several hundred by 10 a.m.
Temperatures in the city reached into the 90s on Monday and Tuesday, with a heat index above 100 degrees.
Lighty said BGE has additional crews in service during periods of extreme heat, and is working closely with city officials to inform customers about cooling centers in the city.
She said residents in Fells Point and Canton would receive calls from BGE with information about the outages and the nearest city cooling centers.
"For extended outages, we have discussions about cooling centers and opening shelters," she said. "We do have more crews out on the street and we do work with local municipalities to make sure our customers have options when we have outages in extreme weather."
Foote said he understands that heat can trigger power outages, but suggested that his area of Canton seems to experience more problems than other parts of the neighborhood and city.
"It's frustrating because you can see the lights on, down the street essentially, and yet you're sitting there in the heat," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this article.
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