BGE customers call Baltimore power outages ‘a real communications problem’ five days after wind storm

Laurie Hess has been preparing breakfast outside on her camp stove for her husband and two children, five days after she first lost power at her Ruxton home.

Bob Heck tried to remain at his Homeland house by layering and using more blankets, but has since left for warmth of a family member’s house.

Both are among the more than 2,000 in the Baltimore area who on Wednesday night were still without power since last week after a wind storm walloped the East Coast.

"This was a much more destructive storm than the forecasts from our multiple meteorological services predicted,” said Aaron Koos, a spokesman for Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., in a statement. Although high winds and some outages had been expected, winds were even stronger and lasted 48 hours — longer than anticipated.

The company said they brought around 1,000 workers from out of state for restoration efforts and have restored power for most of the approximately 400,000 customers who were left in the dark. The local utility said power companies from the Mid-Atlantic to New England reported more than 2.6 million power outages and more than 200,000 customers in the storm’s path remained out on Tuesday.

“Our employees and crews from across the country appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding as they worked around-the-clock shifts in challenging conditions to restore power as quickly and safely as possible,” Koos said.

But to residents without power days later, they say the response has been unacceptable.

“It’s pretty incredible to me that we’ve been without power this long,” Hess said Wednesday morning. She said she grew up in Michigan, where weather can be more severe, but could never recall losing power for days.

Despite the lack of central heat and hot water, Hess and her husband have chosen to remain at home to monitor it, fearing the pipes might burst because of the cold temperatures inside.

She said neighbors have received varied responses from BGE officials about when power might be restored. In the meantime, she said her family has kept warm with extra blankets and a wood-burning fireplace. Her husband showers at a YMCA, and she’s gone to a friend’s home.

Heck also expressed frustration over the disruption to his life, relying on family and friends for basic needs, but also for what he believes is a safety concern.

“Why didn’t they have resources at the ready?” Heck said. “Here’s the thing that’s so infuriating. It was reported on Friday. It is now Wednesday afternoon almost. The tree is still down. There are wires down in the alley,” Heck, 64, said Wednesday morning, worried about whether the wires were live. He said he and others are concerned about safety of children who often play in the alley where a large evergreen toppled over power lines.

“We can’t get any sort of response,” he said of his and neighbors’ attempts to have BGE crews respond. Heck said he and neighbors have received regular notifications from BGE promising them power will be turned by a certain time, only to have their hopes dashed.

BGE officials said they regretted the technical problems customers faced with notifications and will conduct a thorough review.

Heck said he hasn’t seen a BGE truck in the neighborhood since Saturday. He said the company has provided different explanations as to why the power remained out but hasn’t fixed the problem.

“There’s a real communications problem. They can’t even report what the damage is,” he said.

Heck said his family remained at their home but decided to stay with family Monday night because of the cold.

“It’s just hard to sit. It’s like camping. Like you are sitting outside inside,” he said, adding that the temperature has been about 42 degrees inside his home.

“It affects you at work. It makes you tired,” said Heck, an education consultant who works with drama students. He said family and friends have been very supportive, offering to them a place to do laundry, to charges phones and food. One friend even took in his cat until his home is heated again.

One positive, he said, was that the prolonged power outage has forced him to clean out his refrigerator.

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