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LETTER: BGE Thanks Customers for Patience

Chief customer officer provides customers an update on power restoration efforts.

The following letter to the editor was sent to Patch on Sunday night:

If you witnessed the thunderstorms that hit the area late Friday night, you might have thought that they seemed more intense than normal—stronger winds, more frequent lightning. But almost as suddenly as they formed, they were gone again, and the rain and wind had even temporarily exchanged the scorching heat for some slightly more tolerable temperatures. Your lights may have flickered or you lost power altogether, but to many, it may have seemed to be a summer storm like any other. 

However, what was soon evident was this was no average thunderstorm. High winds peaked at 70 mph, downing limbs and uprooting trees. Unlike a thunderstorm that might hit a few isolated areas, this storm ripped a swath of damage across multiple states. In its wake, it left millions without power, including 564,000 BGE customers in eight counties and Baltimore City. A state of emergency was officially declared in Maryland.

By all accounts this storm had tropical storm power and the destruction it left actually caused about two-thirds the number of outages created by last summer’s hurricane. But, unlike an Atlantic tropical storm, which allows for days of preparation, Friday’s “derecho” storm, as it has been categorized by meteorologists, left no time for the usual preparation. It struck suddenly and violently. 

Despite this, BGE’s general state of readiness for summer storms allowed for rapid mobilization. Even as the storm was still in the area, BGE personnel were assessing damages and restoring public safety facilities—hospitals, 911 centers, water treatment and pumping facilities. Crews were quickly assigned to the jobs that would restore service to the greatest number of customers at one time.  By 9 a.m. the next morning, 100,000 customers were back in service. Within 36 hours, more than 50 percent of customers who had experienced a service interruption had their power back. Progress continues with each passing hour. 

With utilities from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic coping with repairs on their own systems, BGE immediately reached beyond the storm’s path to request help from more than 900 utility workers coming from as far away as Florida, New York, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Canada. BGE’s sister utility, PECO, an Exelon Company, was one of the first utilities to dispatch crews to Maryland.  They joined the more than 1,300 BGE personnel who are leading the round-the-clock restoration and we continue to add more personnel and request more assistance. 

Even with additional resources, it takes hundreds of thousands of man hours to work through as many outages as were caused by this storm.  This is especially true when crews have to remove limbs and whole trees that snarled wires and snapped poles. This type of widespread, extensive damage also complicates our ability to quickly provide accurate restoration times, especially when original damage assessments are revised upon closer inspection of the work required.  We know that power outages are frustrating, especially when customers can’t plan around a restoration time. The recent extreme heat just compounds frustrations.

We thank all of our customers for their patience and understanding and for the encouragement they frequently voice for the men and women working in tough and dangerous conditions to restore power. We also thank our customers who prepare for possible extended outages. Unfortunately, this will not be the last storm we encounter. Despite extensive, ongoing tree trimming along our electric lines and with significant investments in reliability equipment, power outages still occur. Even as we continue to clean up the wreckage left behind by this storm, it is a good idea to prepare for the next event. Visit the online storm center on bge.com to review what to do before, during and after a storm. 

Once again, we thank you for your patience and we look forward to completing storm restorations.  

Sincerely,

Jeannette M. Mills
VP, Customer Operations & Chief Customer Officer
Baltimore Gas and Electric Company

See also:

Carol B July 03, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Christy, do you know about the "cooling centers" (both off 175 and 170)? Patch says both will stay open through the weekend: West County •O’Malley Senior Center, 1275 Odenton Rd., Odenton—8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday only •AACO Police Western District Community Meeting Room, 8273 Telegraph Rd., Odenton—7 a.m to 7 a.m. (24 hours) Friday through Monday Call your homeowner's insurance right away (they will likely cover your losses, but you only have a limited time to notify them), and take photos of the inside of the refrigerator and freezer and/or make a list of what you've had to dispose of with the cost, if you can. Save your cash register receipts for any supplies you have to purchase in the meantime. I don't know where you live, but what can those of us who have power (and the power) do to help you?
christy July 03, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Thank you Carol. I wasn't aware until today of the cooling stations. My husband and I have been taking turns driving around at night so that the kids could sleep in the AC. Neither of us have really slept in the last few days. I honestly feel very badly for everyone involved. We are all in this together. We keep stressing to our children, to be positive, to be thankful, and to keep their heads up. And as each day passes it gets harder and harder for me to do the same. There are a ton of older people in our community who are without powers and live on an extremly fixed income. And you have a lot of families like myself who have 4 kids. A trip to McDonalds has been costing about $30. We've roughtly spent $450 on just meals. But as i said, it's not just us. We all are going through this, in some way. I hope BGE gets this handled and has better response times in the future. Thank you for listening. It's been a tough couple of days.
Carol B July 03, 2012 at 06:49 PM
You're welcome, Christy. You aren't alone. At least twice, being in your situation brought me to tears. First: be sure to save your receipts for McDonald's and whatever--that's part of the damage you suffered as a result of not having any electricity or edible food for so long. Obviously, you have an obligation to mitigate the damages as much as possible--so no caviar and champagne (as if!), but your homeowner's/renter's policy should cover all reasonable disaster expenses, especially since tri-state 'DC has been declared an official disaster area by its respective governors. BG&E's response has actually been admirable (which you couldn't know, because you haven't seen the news). This thing affected everyone in an arc from Ohio to the Carolinas, so to get out-of-state help, they've had to go to places that weren't dealing with their own disasters (as far north as Canada!). I've lived here for almost 8 years, and was shocked not to have the power back on in an hour or two (BGE's typical response time in the past)--but when you see the devastation, huge trees lying in houses and on cars and across major roadways, and even the 911 call centers going down in Fairfax and Prince William counties in VA, it's easier to understand. No--not understand, not when you're sweltering--but these people have been working 16 hr shifts in this heat to get us out of this. As usual, they are well ahead of Pepco and the others.
Carol B July 03, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Also: I don't know how old your kids are, but a trip to the library would help during the day--or the movies--and that counts as an emergency expense, too (because it's to help you cool off). I have a guest pass for our community pool, and would be happy to sponsor your family for that. There's a skating rink in Odenton (on the Ft. Meade end of the CVS shopping center--where Superfresh used to be--off 175). It also helps--somewhat--to run cold water on the insides of your wrists and elbows (where there are large arteries) and to eat spicy things like salsa--but no alcohol, coffee, tea, or soda (because the last thing you want to do is dehydrate yourself). Believe it or not, an old-fashioned hand-fan helps a bit, too--as does a wet facecloth on the back of your neck. And lovely, sweet, cool watermelon! But if all else fails and you need somebody to vent to, or need some help, please e-mail me: believe me, I more than understand,
Margie July 07, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I am concernd about the lack of information on area/local cooling centers, ice statios, etc that are avaliable to baltimore City and County. As i listened to my portable radio and read the paper i say only information for these areas, what is up with AA County, do we have emergency management available. BG&E had an automactic reporting system and offered updates, which promptly cut you off. Leaving you with less power on you cell phone and no information. Had to burn additonal gas in the car to recharge the phone. For future emergencies.... Where is this info availbale?

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