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News Maryland Harford County Forest Hill

Outages from ice storm continue in Harford, roads reopened

Harford County residents woke up again Thursday morning to closed roads, closed schools and power outages, although considerably less than what they experienced Wednesday in the aftermath of an ice storm that paralyzed much of the northern end of the county.

Harford County Public Schools closed for a second consecutive day Thursday, although Harford Community College and the county government offices opened on time. The county offices were closed Wednesday and HCC closed at 4 p.m. because of ice accumulations in its parking lots.

Only a few roads remained closed compared to Wednesday evening, when county emergency officials said more than 20 roads remained closed because of downed trees or power lines, and all had been reopened by Thursday afternoon.

The sun shone brightly over downtown Bel Air Thursday afternoon, but the temperature was still hovering around freezing. County emergency officials warned motorists to continue using caution when driving at night, as roads could refreeze.

The biggest news from this latest winter storm was power outages caused by the ice accumulation on trees and overhead transmission lines. At some point Wednesday, one out of five customers of the two electric utilities who serve Harford was out of power, according to their online outage maps.

Robert Thomas, spokesman for the county's Department of Emergency Services, said 6,500 Baltimore Gas & Electric customers and "less than 20" Delmarva Power customers still did not have power as of 6 a.m. Thursday.

He said those numbers were down from a peak of 14,000 BGE customers and more than 5,300 Delmarva Power customers who were without power at some point Wednesday.

One BGE customer, County Councilman Chad Shrodes, had an experience typical to many northern Harford residents. There was no power at his Norrisville home Wednesday, where he had ice on top of 6 inches of snow left over from Monday's snowstorm.

"I'm freezing, man, and I'm out of firewood!" he exclaimed over the phone.

Shrodes said conditions were "pretty disastrous" in the Norrisville, Pylesville and White Hall areas.

"It's like we had a winter tornado there; just trees down everywhere, a lot of roads are closed," Shrodes said.

By 4:30 p.m. Thursday, BGE's online outage map was reporting 2,300 of its 100,700 residential and business customers still did not have power, while almost 19,500 customers had their power restored since early Wednesday.

Most of the BGE customers still without power in Harford were north and west of Bel Air.

BGE, which experienced tens of thousands of outages in its Baltimore region service area, brought in crews from out of state utility companies to speed up the power restoration. The company warned Wednesday, however, that some customers might not have their power back until Friday morning.

Delmarva's online outage map showed all its Harford customers had power restored as of 3 p.m. Thursday. On Wednesday, Delmarva spokesman Nick Morici said crews had been hampered by icy roads and lines as they tried to restore power.

The county opened three shelters at Patterson Mill High School, the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company's Castleton Road firehouse and the Whiteford Volunteer Fire Company's Pylesville Road firehouse at 4 p.m. Wednesday and closed them at 6 a.m. Thursday, Thomas said.

He noted no one had arrived in the shelters as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, but on Thursday, three families from nearby Pennsylvania that were without power and/or heat sought refuge at Whiteford. The families had spent Wednesday night in their cars to stay warm and out of the frigid weather.

Thomas acknowledged the "gracious support" of the fire companies.

"We express our appreciation to both organizations for opening their facilities during the storm," he said.

Although six county roads were still "blocked or partially blocked" as of 6 a.m. Thursday because of fallen tree branches or utility lines, that number had been halved by 9:30 a.m. All were in the northern county area.

All roads were open by early afternoon, Thomas said via Twitter shortly after 2 p.m.

There were 10 vehicle accidents on county roads between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday involving property damage and two more involving injuries.

Accidents continued into the late evening and Thursday morning. A pedestrian walking along Route 543 (Creswell Road), south of Bel Air was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center after being hit by a salt truck around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

An accident was also reported at 8:28 a.m. Thursday at Route 146 (Jarrettsville Pike) and Schuster Road in the Madonna area.

Thomas noted portions of roads that had been wet Wednesday re-froze overnight, and that drivers should be on the lookout for "black ice," which often appears as a wet road.

The county announced Thursday afternoon that public libraries around the county would be available as "warming centers" during their normal operating houses. Closing hours Thursday for the branches in Bel Air, Fallston and Jarrettsville were extended to 10 p.m.

It was also announced that the two sites for yard waste disposal will have extended hours for people to drop off tree limbs and similar debris from the ice storm.

The Harford Waste Disposal Center Mulch and Compost Facility, 3135 Scarboro Road in Street, will be open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., until further notice, the county said in a news release. The Tollgate Road Yard Trim Drop-off Facility, 608 N. Tollgate Road in Bel Air, will be open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The Harford County area could still get more snow this weekend. The latest National Weather Service forecast says there is a 30 percent chance for snow Saturday and a 70 percent chance Saturday evening, with snow also likely on Sunday and temperatures dropping into the teens Sunday night.

Aegis staff members Bryna Zumer and Krishana Davis contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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