"The expectations of restoration are a lot different than they used to be," Hyland said. "The idea of being without power more than about 48 hours drives the average customer crazy, let alone a week."

One consumer advocate recognized the challenge of the massive storm cleanup job but defended customers' expectations.

"It's hard not to feel sympathy for them; they have a big job to do," Maryland PIRG State Advocate Jenny Levin said. "But I don't think consumers expectations are too high. … Even when they have had advance notice they have had a lackluster response."

Rosapepe, a Democrat who represents Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, questioned why utilities weren't prepared for the storm, given that global climate change may be causing more extreme weather — a belief that Gov. Martin O'Malley and Public Service Commission Chairman Douglas Nazarian also recently expressed.

BGE doesn't have an official stance on climate change, Woerner said. However, the utility is eager to have a public discussion about severe weather, massive outages and the costs and benefits of potential solutions such as hiring more permanent line crews or burying some or all power lines, he said.

O'Malley set up a work group July 25 that will explore ways to improve electricity reliability in Maryland, and BGE officials welcomed the effort in the report.

"It's best in that public policy arena where it's done sort of as an open book, where we can get all the facts on the table," Woerner said.

Maryland Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin will also brief a U.S. Senate panel chaired by Sen. Ben Cardin on Wednesday, discussing what needs to be done to prepare for more severe weather brought on by climate change.

Maryland People's Counsel Paula Carmody, who advocates for utility customers before the PSC, said her office will form positions on utilities' storm responses and ways to improve them after an engineering consultant reviews storm reports from BGE and other utilities.

BGE customers will have the opportunity to air their concerns in public hearings across the Baltimore area Aug. 13-16 or in writing to the commission. Utility leaders will appear before the commission for hearings in September.

sdance@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MdWeather