BGE warns of possible outages during Wednesday storm

A combination of heavy, wet snow on the power lines and tree limbs, plus winds of up to 50 mph, could threaten the electricity grid, BGE officials said Tuesday.

But tree trimming efforts in Towson and Pikesville over the last year could shorten outage times if the forcasted winter storm strikes the Baltimore area this week.

"Especially around the Towson area, we've gotten a lot of our aggressive trimming done in a lot of the areas we've experienced problems in the past," Mike Garzon, BGE's supervisor for customer reliability support in Baltimore County, said. "We do believe there's going to be a significant improvement in some of these areas."

Garzon said trimming and infrastructure improvements were recently completed in Wiltondale along Stevenson Lane, and in the Pot Spring neighborhood of Timonium. Additionally, Councilman David Marks announced tree trimming in parts of northeast Towson and Campus Hills earlier this year. Trees were also trimmed in parts of

In January, BGE began tree trimming in the northeast Towson, including along Cromwell Bridge Road, Fairmount Avenue, and Providence Road. Trees were also trimmed in some portions of Southland Hills, Councilman David Marks announced at the time.

If the most recent storm--Superstorm Sandy--is any indication, BGE Vice President of Corporate Communications Rob Gould said outages could be mitigated by the reduced trees.

After Hurricane Irene brought week long outages to Towson and Pikesville in 2011, Gould said BGE aimed to trim trees and selectively bury line in those areas to prevent future prolonged outages.

The work was barely underway when the June 2012 derecho hit, Gould said. But concentrated tree removal in one area of Pikesville between that storm and before Hurricane Sandy led to just one tree falling on a power line in a typically vulnerable neighborhood during the October superstorm.

This anecdotal evidence showed the effects tree trimming could have, he said.

"You're never going to be able to hurricane-proof or major storm-proof the system, but if you can eliminate hazard trees or trees that could come down on the speeds the restoration up," Gould said.

"People think if you're able to clear out many trees, you'll never have an outage," he said. "That's just not realistic."

Both BGE and Baltimore County officials said Monday evening they will be providing updates on the storm’s progress and their response on the county website and social media accounts.

"Nowadays, it's easier than ever to be connected to important information about road conditions, winter storm operations and emergency updates via social media and on our web page," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in a statement. "Even if you are not a social media whiz, you can still read these important updates and never have to post a thing yourself."

During typical emergencies, the county provides updates on Twitter and on Facebook. For this week’s anticipated storm, Baltimore County set up a “BC Snow Fighter” page to update residents on road conditions.

The “BC Snow Fighter” page will also post links to school closings, court schedules, jury duty cancellations, and trash pickups.

BGE will update customers on outages at the online outage center, and has made an initial request for up to 500 out-of-state linemen and utility workers to assist with power restoration.

“Heavy, wet snow combined with high wind and wind gusts can weaken trees, bringing whole trees and tree limbs down onto power lines and other electric delivery equipment, and cause outages,” Jeanette Mills, vice president and chief customer officer for BGE, said in a statement Monday . “The safety of our employees and customers is our top priority, and in periods of sustained high wind, it may be unsafe to operate bucket trucks.

“Customers should prepare for the possibility of extended power outages in the event that the snowfall causes treacherous road conditions, which may delay crew travel and restoration times,” Mills said.

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