Still, addressing service problems in the neighborhood is "going to be an ongoing process," she said. "Things change so quickly. We're working as hard as we can to continue to invest in our infrastructure."

Repair efforts are complicated by access problems in some alleys, ductwork that limits the size of new cables and other limitations in the tightly built, older neighborhoods, Lighty said. It is "much easier to install new electrical infrastructure in a new development than retrofit an existing installation."

As heat that peaked in the 90s last week forced air-conditioning units and refrigerators in more houses than ever to full power, officials said, cables serving the area became so overheated that some melted. Several times when electricity was restored, a surge of demand by air-conditioning units and appliances all restarting at the same time knocked out power again.

BGE crews began installing temporary overhead lines Wednesday to ease the draw on the neighborhoods' underground lines. Lighty said that approach might continue as engineers seek longer-term solutions, such as installing thicker cables that can handle higher loads and more intense heat.

The utility is also installing smart meters across its territory, with the goal of completing the transition by the end of next year. Michael Garzon, BGE's supervisor of customer reliability, said the meters will enable the company to collect more-accurate, real-time usage data that will help engineers identify areas where demand has grown over time.

Garzon said the meters will also help BGE see where newly renovated homes are drawing more power when homeowners and private electricians haven't informed the utility. Homeowners will still be responsible for reporting renovations to BGE, Garzon said, but the meters might help detect those that slip through the cracks.

Kraft said he is also considering ways to get better information about renovations to the power company.

Residents said they hope something changes.

"You drive home from work and you are clenching the steering wheel wondering if you're going to have power, going to be able to cook dinner or even sleep in your house," said Jeff Hossfield, a 32-year-old engineer who lives in Fells Point.

"I recognize that, certainly, the infrastructure in the city is extremely old and stuff does happen," he said. "But when there is a repeated issue or where it becomes so commonplace, there's clearly a need for more attention for infrastructure upgrades to resolve the issue.

"It just seems to get more and more unreliable, which makes it more frustrating."

krector@baltsun.com

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