After Irene: When Will the Lights Come On?
BGE said some customers will be out of power until Saturday.
Thirty-five hours after the most intense winds and rain from Hurricane Irene, more than 20,200 homes in Howard County are without power, according to state officials.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Gov. Martin O’Malley said government and BGE were working to give people better estimates of when they could expect power. But, he said, “There are some people who are going to be without electricity for a long period of time—several days.”
About 680,000 people were without power at the height of outages. Since then, BGE has restored service to about half of them.
But the other half are asking on Twitter and Facebook: “When is my power going to be restored?”
“The way we determine restoration is to critical customers first, and public safety operations,” BGE spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said.
That means downed wires, hospitals, 911 call centers and pumping stations are restored first.
“After that, we restore power so that service can be restored to the greatest number of people,” she said. So if a downed power line has affected an entire community, businesses and traffic lights, expect it to be fixed before a power line that left a block of homes without electricity.
After that, Lighty said, “We give consideration to customers who have been out the longest.” Customers can call 877-778-2222 to report a prolonged outage.
Trees that were knocked over by Irene’s winds, which gusted as high as 85 mph in places, have a major factor in contributing to prolonged outages, Lighty said.
To remove trees, BGE has its own tree removal employees, contractors that it turns to on a regular basis, and a crew of out-of-state contractors who arrived Wednesday in anticipation of wind damage from the hurricane.
“We have had more than 5,000 reports of downed wires,” Lighty said, “so it’s extensive damage, and trees have to first be removed. That’s very time-intensive and work-intensive.”
And it can be dangerous work. High-voltage power lines can be live when they break, setting trees on fire and causing a danger to pedestrians and workers nearby.
“We absolutely take safety first,” Lighty said. “It's our number-one priority.”
BGE employs "safety standby," she said, noting “if a downed wire cannot be fixed immediately, we have someone who stays nearby and makes sure nobody gets close to it.”
As of about 2:45 p.m. on Monday, BGE alerted customers via Twitter that it expects to restore service to a vast majority of people by Friday, but that some isolated outages would extend into Saturday.