Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews worked Tuesday to shorten the list of homes that remain without power after last week’s brutal nor’easter, but another overnight storm carrying the potential for rain and snow could hamper those efforts.
Officials said crews restored power to more than 5,000 customers in the Baltimore region during the day. According to the utility’s website, 8,350 customers were still in the dark as of 3:57 a.m. Wednesday and 393,708 had seen power return since Friday, when the windstorm downed trees and snapped power lines.
“The remaining outages should be restored no later than tomorrow night,” Linda Foy, a spokeswoman for BGE, said Tuesday. “We are watching the approaching weather and prepared to respond if new outages occur.”
Rain began to fall lightly on workers about midday. The National Weather Service expected the rain to turn to a combination of rain and snow overnight in Baltimore when temperatures were forecast to drop from the mid-40s to around freezing. A slushy mixture was expected in Baltimore by Wednesday morning, with larger accumulations of up to 5 inches or so predicted for the north near the Pennsylvania line during the day.
Meteorologist James Lee said forecasting was complicated because the region was at the edge of the storm and other factors.
“Our best bet is 2 to 4 inches north of the city and more as you get closer to the Mason-Dixon line,” he said of the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania.
He said winds will pick up again Wednesday afternoon, though not nearly to speeds recorded during the nor’easter Friday or even over the weekend. Gusts could be closer to 20 to 30 mph and continue through Wednesday night; some areas Friday experienced winds near 70 mph.
State Highway Administration officials warned drivers to use caution, particularly on bridges and and in areas prone to freezing. They said they were tracking the storm and crews were pretreating with salt brine in northern counties in anticipation of freezing surfaces, and were monitoring all the roads with plans to treat them as needed.
MARC was anticipating normal train service Wednesday on the Brunswick and Camden lines. The Penn Line was expected to operate normally between Baltimore and Washington, but service could be affected north of Edgewood. Amtrak Northeast Regional and Acela Express services plan to operate on a modified schedule between Washington and Boston.
The fresh storm could complicate efforts to restore power in areas where the most people remain without power — Harford and Baltimore counties. Harford had more than 2,000 remaining without power Tuesday evening and Baltimore County reported more than 3,400, according to BGE.
In Northwest Baltimore, seniors at an assisted-living facility were stranded for more than three days without power, the executive director said. The power went out about 3:30 p.m. Friday at Peregrine Senior Living at Tudor Heights, according to Chuck Griffith, the executive director. Officials placed several calls to the customer service line without any response over the weekend, he said.
Power was restored to the facility at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to BGE spokesman Justin Mulcahy.
Still, the three days without power meant no elevators, so staffers had to walk meals upstairs to residents, Griffith said.
“You would’ve thought we were a priority, being assisted-living,” he said. “It was very frustrating to have to wait the amount of time we had to wait.”
The prospect of more harsh weather was unsettling to some who live in areas north of the city and have been without electricity for days already. That included Michael Schwartzberg, a Pikesville resident who was forced to leave his unheated home with his wife, two teenage sons and dog.
He said the house had been without heat since Friday afternoon, when a large tree fell on a utility pole, taking out electricity as well as access in and out of his neighborhood. The family toughed it out Friday night in hoodies and extra layers of blankets. But with no sign of crews to clear the tree or restore power, Schwartzberg headed to his in-laws’ house about five minutes away in the family car on a golf cart path.
He felt lucky to have some place warm to go with hospitable relatives. But he grew frustrated about a lack of information from BGE about what to expect. Efforts to reach the utility via phone and social media were getting unspecific responses. “We apologize that we cannot provide a more specific time frame for restoration, but we have confirmed that your location is on our list of escalated properties,” the response read.
“I understand they are overwhelmed and the logistics of the operation are large,” Schwartzberg said. “But we don’t live in a Third World country, and 90-plus hours without power is inexcusable.”
Later in the day, Schwartzberg said several BGE trucks did show up in the neighborhood and began work.
Bob Heck said he was concerned that downed power lines in his Homeland neighborhood remained live and a threat to residents. He said he’d not seen a truck or even an orange cone, which he said was an “egregious failure by BGE.”
Jeanie Ferretti, who works in constituent services for Del. Maggie McIntosh, said she’d been alerting BGE about downed lines and residences without power to make sure they were all on BGE’s list.
Others expressed frustrations by posting messages on social media and tagging BGE in hopes of attracting workers to their neighborhoods or getting answers about when the truck might be expected. Dozens of people took to Twitter, posting pictures of felled trees and thermometers showing temperatures in the 50s and 40s inside their homes. Other images showed potentially unsafe conditions where snapped power lines were trapped under downed trees. They also lamented the cost of spoiled food and hotels.
A few hopeful customers posted pictures of crews, some from Florida and Canada, working on lines. Others thanked the linemen for working around the clock.
BGE tweeted back asking people for direct messages with addresses to ensure they were counted. Officials also said they had called in reinforcements to help and would text approximate times to expect restoration, though some customers responded that they had not gotten any messages.
One tweet Tuesday afternoon read: “Still no call or text. What is your schedule for calling? 4 days without power and another storm coming. We need help!”
And another: “It is getting very cold and very dark... like my mood.”