'Spectacular' power line fire leaves thousand in Bel Air in the dark [25 years ago]

From The Aegis dated Aug. 25, 1988:

A "spectacular" power line fire left 18,000 Harford electric customers, mostly in Majors Choice and Heritage Woods apartments, in the dark 25 years ago this week.

Tree limbs fell on power lines on Moores Mill Road, sparking a 33,000-volt surge that caused a "flood of fires" – at least 10 – that hit transformers and homes, resulting in an emergency that rivaled a "four-alarm event" 25 years prior to that.

More than 100 volunteers from 10 local fire companies responded, as did police from the Harford County Sheriff's Office, Maryland State Police and Bel Air Police Department.

One police officer suffered an electrical shock when he touched a doorknob on one of the homes "energized" by the surge and as many as 10 homes were damaged.

Harford Community College President Dr. Alfred C. O'Connell, who had been the head of the two-year school for nearly half its existence, announced 25 years ago this week he would retired at the end of the 1988-1989 school year.

"Now is the most appropriate time for new leadership at the college," O'Connell, 60, said during a press conference. "I have especially appreciated the opportunity to work with a truly talented and committed faculty and staff."

His retirement wasn't much of a surprise – he had told board of trustee members when he was given his most recent three-year contract it would probably be his last.

O'Connell said he would probably stay in the education field, possibly teaching graduate school, or even another job as college president.

Dr. Richard Streett Jr., chairman of the HCC trustees, said O'Connell's retirement would mark the "beginning of a new era" at HCC.

An 8-year-old girl's birthday celebration came close to tragedy 25 years ago this week; the girl was horsing around in a house under construction, lost her balance and fell into a 7-foot hole on her back.

The girl, with some of her family and friends, had finished dinner and went across the street to check out the home being built, despite knowing they weren't supposed to. She was pushing and shoving with her older and younger brothers when she lost her balance.

"When I got to her she had turned blue," the girl's mother said.

She was taken to Johns Hopkins Pediatric Center in Baltimore as a precaution.

The Gepp family of Darlington was named the Maryland 4-H Family of the Year 25 years ago this week.

Carl and his wife, Sara, had four daughters ages 15 to 25 as well as seven horses, four cats and three dogs and had been involved in 4-H "for years."

Besides heading the Harford County 4-H Leaders Association, the Gepps took charge of the Harford County Horse and Pony Club in 1985, and since then membership had grown from eight to 24 families.

Monkton's Judi Smith was selected 25 years ago this week to participate in the 1988 E. S. Paralympic Team in the games in Seoul, South Korea, in October.

Smith, a triplegic swimmer with the National Wheelchair Athletic Association who held the world record in the 100 meter individual medley, also held Pan American records in the 25 meter butterfly, the 25 meter backstroke, the 25 meter freestyle, the 25 meter freestyle and the 75 meter IM relay.

Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace had a record year, with more than $1.73 million in income, up from $1.62 million the year before. Fallston General, on the other hand, lost $471,713 in 1987, just two years after generating more than a $2 million profit.

Tom Smith was the Familiar Face 25 years ago this week. The owner of Tom's Super thrift just south of the Mason-Dixon line in Cardiff had come "to exemplify the quiet professionalism, goodwill and effective caring that are the workaday habits of the residents of this region," according to The Aegis.

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