‘What the heck’s going on’: 7-hour power outage in Annapolis area causes confusion, ‘nightmare’ traffic, temporary delays to courts

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Noted romance novelist Laura Kaye was working on her latest book, a historic, spy swashbuckler set in World War II, when the lights shut off at her West Street office.

Meeting with neighboring workers in their shared lobby, Kaye noticed it wasn’t just their building that was down. A day care in Crownsville called a receptionist asking her to pick up her child. Another employee, who was teleworking from Severna Park, said she couldn’t complete the monthly invoices. And Kaye’s husband, who works at the Naval Academy, texted her to say their home on the other side of the Severn River had blacked out as well.


“In a very short span of time,” Kaye said, “it was very clear that this was a pretty significant event.”

Thursday’s electric failure affected more than 72,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric customers throughout Anne Arundel County, with several thousand residents left without power in the Annapolis area and outages extending as far north as Odenton.


With the first reports coming in around 3:15 p.m., the power company announced nearly all services had been restored approximately seven hours later, around 10:30 p.m. BGE spokesperson Nick Alexopulos said Friday the equipment failure that caused Thursday’s outage was not part of the Cedar Park substation, as had been reported by city officials, but declined to clarify what piece of equipment it was or where the issue occurred.

With Friday being one of Annapolis’ hottest recorded days of 2023 — highs reaching into the mid-80s — Alexopulos said BGE routinely inspects its equipment to “further ensure safe and reliable service” for customers. The outage was not caused by high usage, Alexopulos said, adding that BGE invested $1.4 billion in infrastructure improvements to the company’s electric system last year.

“The number of electric outages a customer experiences has decreased 40% since 2008 and when customers do experience a service interruption, their power is restored 36% faster today,” he said.

Maryland state Sen. Sarah Elfreth also spent time updating her constituents online and on Friday, she said she has asked BGE to inform her of the issue when it is diagnosed.

“I’m still trying to learn what caused the problem. That’s first,” Elfreth said, " then we can figure out how to prevent it.”

During the outage, Annapolis sought aide from other agencies, Maryland Capitol Police and Anne Arundel-Annapolis Community Emergency Response Team among them, to help direct traffic and other response efforts, said Kevin Simmons, director of the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management.

Around 4:25, an hour after the outage, the Annapolis Police Department received a call from a local hospital about a 28-year-old man who walked in with a gunshot wound.

At the hospital, officers interviewed Damar Simms, of Annapolis, who said he was walking in the 700 block of Newtowne Drive when he heard a gunshot and began running. Simms realized he had been struck in the leg by a bullet and was driven to the hospital by a friend. Simms did not know who shot him and he was treated at the hospital and released.


Typically, in emergency situations, Annapolis establishes a call center to take pressure off of 911 lines. With the power out, those calls were directed to Anne Arundel County Office of Emergency Management instead. Next week, the city is planning an after-action meeting to discuss the emergency response and how to improve, Simmons said.

”From what I can see, we hit all cylinders,” Simmons said of the city’s response. “We were prepared if that thing would have gone longer.”

The only court proceedings affected were two jury trials in circuit court that resumed Friday, according to the Maryland Judiciary, while other facilities, including the Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center and the Jennifer Road Detention Center, operated as usual.

By the time the first outages were reported, all of the county’s public high schools and elementary schools were dismissed for the day, according to spokesperson Bob Mosier, and the middle schools were released at their normal time of 3:55 p.m. Evening events, including the West Annapolis Elementary School spring concert, were canceled and rescheduled.

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The musical “Retrievers” will now be performed at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Mosier said, adding that all Anne Arundel County Public Schools opened at their regularly scheduled times Friday morning.

Annapolis residents told The Capital Friday they had seen smoke in the area of Taylor Avenue shortly after they lost power, while others reported hearing a “bang” or nothing at all.


Several city and county agencies issued statements asking drivers to use caution on the road and many residents made similar announcements on social media. At any intersection where a traffic light was not working, drivers were asked to proceed as if there were four-way stop signs, alternating the right of way.

Officials said Thursday’s outage did not cause an abnormal number of crashes. According to Kasey Thomas, a spokesperson with the Anne Arundel County Office of Emergency Management, there were 16 crashes Thursday during the outage, the same number as the corresponding time period Wednesday.

“Between our agency, the city of Annapolis and our great partnership with BGE, being able to get the message out quickly helped minimize the damage of this incident,” Thomas said.

Even though her husband said their house was out of power, Kaye decided to make her way home. Immediately, she said the traffic was “a nightmare” and as a longtime supporter of local news, she began taking pictures of what she saw: road bends lined with cars; bumper-to-bumper traffic across two-way streets; congested highways and even a wrecked car.

“There wasn’t any explanation about what was going on,” Kaye said. “I figured there’s got to be a lot of folks like me wondering what the heck’s going on and what it all means.”