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BGE expects to finish restoring power on Friday

Computer glitch gives customers incorrect updates on restoration estimates

By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

9:58 AM EST, February 7, 2014

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Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. expects to restore power by Friday to the last several thousand customers affected by this week's ice storm.

With 400 workers from outside the region assisting 1,100 BGE contractors and employees, utility officials planned to tackle repairs affecting smaller pockets of customers and those with extensive tree damage.

Those customers were frustrated as they faced the start of a third day without electricity, sometimes with limited information on repairs due to a BGE computer glitch. With a chance for snow over the weekend, the possibility of more outages looms.

BGE officials said Thursday the total number of outages climbed to 174,000 as gusty winds moved through the region Wednesday night and early Thursday.

In some cases, customers reported as many as three separate outages, according to Steve Woerner, the utility's chief operating officer. Repairs would be made, and then wires or other equipment would suffer more damage.

"It's hard to make progress when you have the tide coming the other direction," Woerner said.

Crews had reduced the number of outages to under 16,000 by 10 a.m. Friday, down from about 25,000 Thursday evening. Woerner had said he expected workers to bring the number down to 5,000 to 6,000 by Friday morning.

Statewide, emergency management officials estimated the number of outages had fallen to about 28,000 by 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Stacey Davis, who lives in the Old Hillendale neighborhood of Towson, said she had called BGE frequently in recent days.

"I do tend to get rowdy with them," she said. Her family spent a week and a half without power after the derecho of July 2012, she said, and has suffered other outages that lasted four or five days.

Her frustration was compounded when her repeated calls to the utility were met with the same recorded message thanking her for reporting an outage without offering any estimate of when her power might be restored, as the company's main outage reporting hot line is supposed to do.

"I thrive on having information, maybe that's just me, but I would really like to know as many details as I can get so I can plan," Davis said.

Woerner said a glitch was discovered within the hot line system that resulted in erroneous messages. He said it was repaired by midday Thursday.

"I'm very disappointed that happened," Woerner said. "What we're very conscious of is, we don't want to overpromise. It's a fine line because customers also want our absolute best information available."

Forecasts were developing for two snowy weekend systems, but no major impacts were expected. Light snow was expected Saturday and again Sunday, with rain possibly in the mix Saturday afternoon.

Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this report.

sdance@baltsun.com

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