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Power outage poses challenges in Baltimore County

With a lengthy post-hurricane power outage threatening her child-rearing plans, Michele Gunderson turned to a local hardware store for dry ice to protect her reserve of frozen breast milk.

"I've got three kids, I'm a stay-at-home mom. I can't warm bottles," said Gunderson, who had her 1-year-old strapped to her front Wednesday afternoon and was being trailed by two little girls, ages 5 and 7. "This is a nightmare."

Gunderson's nearly five-gallon "freezer stash of frozen breast milk" was threatened by a looming fifth day without power. She has stopped nursing but was hoping to keep her son Ben on breast milk into the fall.

The Gundersons paid $890 to stay three nights at a downtown hotel, but by Wednesday afternoon they were approaching their breaking point.

The lengthy power outage following Hurricane Irene has hit the residents of Wiltondale, a well-to-do neighborhood south of Towson, with a variety of challenges, but many were taking it in stride.

The newest neighbors on the street, Rob and Kim Carr and their four sons, began moving into their home Sunday from a smaller Wiltondale house. But both their old and new homes were powerless throughout the move, which was wrapping up Wednesday.

"We've got two little ones in a new house, new room. It's hard to get them to bed," said Rob. One son was bothered by the noise of a gasoline-powered generator, and the pitch-black bedrooms made it tougher to get them to sleep, he said.

"We basically have a daylight window [for moving]," he said. "With the power out, pretty much all you can do is sit and stare at each other and drink a beer."

Before getting a generator, the Carrs had a barbecue for friends to empty the perishables from their refrigerator. They were fortunate to have a gas stove, Kim said.

In the midst of watching four boys and trying to move, she didn't have time to go out for candles, which were being snatched from Baltimore-area store shelves after Irene hit. So her sister in Austin, Texas, overnighted a box of the hot commodities.

Down Wilton Road from the Carrs, the most distressing thing to Beth Merryman about the power outage is that it is distressing her beagle, Olive. "It's been very disruptive to her routine," said Merryman. Olive is a rescue dog, she said, and came with nervous qualities. She doesn't like to be alone in the dark.

Without lights in the house, Merryman has had to take Olive with her everywhere she goes after nightfall. "Compared to anyone else, having a neurotic dog isn't so bad."

Along nearby York Road, some residents set up shop at cafes and restaurants where WiFi and working electrical outlets were available.

Phyllis Jones, a training consultant who works from a home office, has been "making rounds" all week among the nearby shops.

Jones settled at Panera Bread on Wednesday in the Anneslie Shopping Center because of its many outlets. "Everybody needs an outlet because no one can charge at home," she said.

Nearly all of the tables at Panera had a laptop on them, even though business had tapered off for the week as power was restored to nearby homes, said store manager April Ayd. Monday was a record day for the restaurant, she said.

Business was also booming at Ayd Hardware, south of Wiltondale. The store was stocked with the dry ice that owner Vincent Ayd pre-emptively ordered last Thursday. He's been in the hardware business for more than three decades and watches storm patterns to anticipate demand.

A line of customers formed around the block on Sunday, and within five hours they bought all 6,000 pounds of dry ice he'd ordered, Ayd said.

In that line was Gunderson's husband, who paid $1.50 per pound to keep his son's stash of milk frozen.



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