Power returning to parts of the region, but 186,000 BGE customers still out

Power outages hit a plateau early Tuesday morning and began creeping downward, with about 186,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers without electricity at noon, according to the company.

The company said it has restored power to about 114,000 customers since storm operations began at 10 a.m. Sunday.

BGE will assess the damage Tuesday and Wednesday as restoration efforts continue, said spokesman Rob Gould. He said the utility probably wouldn't be able to give an estimate until late Wednesday or Thursday about when all customers would see power restored.

About 2,000 of the 3,000 out-of-state utility workers BGE requested are on hand to help mop up after Sandy, first a hurricane and later a post-tropical "superstorm." BGE expects the remaining 1,000 mutual-assistance workers to filter in Tuesday, spokeswoman Rachael L. Lighty said.

In addition to the out-of-state help, BGE has 2,100 people on storm detail, from lineman to tree contractors to call-center workers, Lighty said. As both winds and rain eased Tuesday morning, linemen were able to tackle problems that required elevated bucket trucks — work that had been suspended Monday afternoon as Sandy's effects worsened.

"Our crews are definitely working around the clock, but the majority of our crews are out during the day today," Lighty said.

"Superstorm" or not, Sandy's wallop in the Baltimore region was muted compared with the June derecho storm and Hurricane Irene in 2011 — at least in terms of power outages. All told, about 300,000 BGE customers lost power starting Sunday, Lighty said, compared with about 750,000 customers during the derecho and Irene each.

As of noon Tuesday, nearly 15 percent of customers in BGE's service area were still waiting for service to return after Sandy knocked down trees and power lines in its path. The largest number of outages were reported in Anne Arundel County (52,000), Baltimore County (49,000) and Harford County (42,000), with 15,000 out in the city, 14,000 out in Howard County and 3,000 out in Carroll County.

The remainder of the outages in BGE's territory were reported in Calvert, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Elsewhere in the state, just before noon:

Pepco, which serves Washington and its Maryland suburbs, reported about 17,000 of its customers without power.

Delmarva Power said 26,000 customers were without electricity in the Maryland portion of the Eastern Shore, while Choptank Electric Cooperative reported 9,900 customers without power in that region.

Potomac Edison was reporting about 58,000 customers without power in Western Maryland.

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative had about 2,200 customers without power in its Southern Maryland territory.

BGE asked all customers whose power goes out — even customers with smart meters — to call 877-778-2222 to report the outage.

BGE has established five staging areas for its crews: M&T; Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport and Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro, Gould said.

At the staging area just outside M&T; Bank Stadium, out-of-state workers paired up with BGE employees and headed out early Tuesday to neighborhoods with outages. BGE set up a large tent for workers to eat and drop off laundry. Generators and truck engines combined into an ever-present hum.

Among the out-of-state help was a 114-person team from Commonwealth Edison Co. in Chicago, which like BGE is owned by Exelon Corp. Crews came east with ComEd's mobile command center, leaving around 9 a.m. Saturday and arriving at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

"Our goal is to get Baltimore up and running," said Ty Watson, a ComEd heavy-equipment hauler.

With the wind dying down Tuesday, it should be easier for lineman to get the power back on, said Bob Johnson, ComEd's director of emergency preparedness.

"We were expecting a lot more water," he added. "That was everybody's concern."

Another worry is what Sandy might do to their own town. As they worked on Baltimore outages Tuesday morning, high winds were whipping through Chicago.

"I don't think anybody was expecting that to happen," Johnson said.

Said Lin Taibl, a ComEd safety officer: "We already have crews moving into our territory, knowing we're out here."

Along with the outages came calls from politicians for Maryland's electric utilities to improve their infrastructure.

State senators Jim Rosapepe and Brian Frosh released a statement Monday evening saying that the storm exemplifies why the utilities need to "acknowledge climate change and modernize the electric infrastructure."

"It's past time for BGE and PEPCO to move into the 21st Century -- by making scientifically-based business decisions and investing in burying power lines and other modernizations of our electric power infrastructure to withstand extreme weather caused by climate change," Rosapepe said in the statement.





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