Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said there remains a “sense of urgency” to have power restored to the tens of thousands of Marylanders affected by Tropical Storm Irene, while Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) officials said they expect most people will have electricity by Friday.
Brown met with BGE officials Tuesday in Odenton, where the company converted offices into one of two command centers in the state. Workers there were directing crews to deal with power outages across BGE’s service area, where more than 226,000 customers were still without service. BGE has restored service to more than 522,000 customers.
In Anne Arundel County, more than 61,000 were still without service, but more than 117,000 have had service restored.
“The apparatus is in motion to restore power and we will be happy when everyone has their power restored,” Brown said. “There is a sense of urgency, a great sense of urgency.”
BGE President and CEO Ken DeFontes said that substations in Maryland were hit hard by the storm, but that all but one is back online. The focus now, he said, is repairing the 33 kilovolt power lines that feed those substations. Once those are fixed, crews will be able to work on tackling outages in small neighborhoods and side streets.
DeFontes said he expects most people will have service back by Friday, with a few homes possibly coming online Saturday. But he said it remains hard to predict when service can be restored to individual customers.
“Customers want to know, ‘when is my power going to come back,’’’ he said. “And we can run a model that says ‘we have this much work and this many crews and estimate when it will all be done,’ but to be able to know today which job will be worked Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, that’s difficult. I don’t know any utility that’s figured that one out.”
BGE said it will call those customers that should have restored service to check that power is actually back on.
The company has relied heavily on out-of-state crews to help with restoration efforts. BGE has been forced to look further west and south for crews, as it competes Pepco and Dominion Electric for workers.
The company today announced it added the equivalent of 500 full-time workers from Alabama.
DeFontes said BGE was not able to begin restoration work in earnest until late Sunday morning, meaning that many customers were without power for up to 12 hours before crews hit the streets.
BGE said the biggest culprit for the power outages is downed trees, and acknowledged that some customers may have lost power even after the storm due to vulnerable trees that fell.
“When you come into Maryland, you have a beautiful community with lots of gorgeous trees,” he said. “To think about what it would take to not have them fall on the lines, we’d have to clear 2 million trees. That’s just not realistic.”
DeFontes said some customers may also have lost power temporarily after the storm in order to repair service elsewhere.
Brown said the state will continue to monitor the progress of BGE and other utilities, and will also evaluate its own preparation and response to Irene.
“After action reports are important to us,” he said. “We’re constantly evaluating. We’re not about to give ourselves a grade for the overall operation but we will look for ways we can do things better.”