Editorial: One lesson from storm outages is to trim trees near power lines

When disaster strikes, such as the storm that knocked out power in the area on June 29 — lasting in some areas for more than a week — the question arises: What can we learn?

As frustration levels rose each day for those without power, attention focused on the region's chief power provider, Baltimore Gas and Electric. Had BGE prepared adequately for this? Was its post-storm response timely and effective?

Though some may harbor doubts about the effectiveness of recovery, such issues are too wide-ranging for pat answers.

Certainly, BGE wasn't the only electricity provider in Maryland unable, for days, to restore power to thousands.

We tend to believe that BGE, given the circumstances, did its best.

One suggestion that often gets resurrected at time likes this is that we run our power lines underground, as is done in many areas of Europe.

But at an estimated cost of a million dollars a mile, this doesn't seem to be a financially feasible answer in most places, particularly older neighborhoods.

So, we run wires atop replaceable wooden poles. We see these from the windows in our houses. And in many cases, we also see the biggest threat — adjacent trees. It's a simple truth that wires strung on outdoor wooden poles are most vulnerable to falling trees or their limbs.

BGE runs a Tree and Vegetation Management Program that trims trees along more than 10,000 miles of overhead power lines.

In fact, BGE is in the midst of updating its practices, implementing new requirements proposed in 2011 by the Maryland Public Service Commission. (For details on BGE's tree program, go to http://www.bge.com/customerservice/servicerequests/treetrimming/pages/default.aspx.)

If we can take a lesson from last week's storm-related hassles, consider the benefit of having trees trimmed if branches threaten power lines.

You may be grateful later. And so might your neighbors.

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