For this BG&E lineman, it was one of those days

July 09, 1991|By Patrick Ercolano | Patrick Ercolano,Evening Sun Staff

Charlie McDonald was having one of those days.

McDonald, a lineman for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., was putting in the sort of Herculean work shift that linemen put in after a calamity such as Sunday's fierce storm that knocked down trees and electrical wires throughout the state.

What kind of day is one of those days? Consider that McDonald and fellow lineman Howard Myers began a shift together at 5 a.m. yesterday repairing downed lines and stayed on the job past 11 p.m. as the utility moved toward completion of final repairs from the storm.

"You put in hours like this once in a while," said McDonald, who noted that his surname is spelled "just like that hamburger joint." "Even two or three days later, after you've had your normal sleep and everything, you're still tired."

Well, as the commercial says: Charlie McDonald, you deserve a break today. In fact, he explained, a lineman coming off a 24-hour shift usually spends the bulk of the next day reacquainting himself with his mattress.

The crew of McDonald and Myers, each a veteran BG&E lineman with more than 20 years of service, spent the late morning and early afternoon yesterday repairing downed wires behind the home of Mike and Debra Carter on Dixie Drive in Towson.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday, during the height of the storm that would leave six Marylanders dead, the powerful winds knocked down a pair of 100-foot oak trees in back of the Carters' house.

The two oaks, part of a stately wall of trees behind the homes on Dixie Drive, fell toward the rear of the house. They glanced off a tall beech tree in the Carters' back yard and crashed down onto the roof of their home.

No one was injured. Mike Carter and the two Carter children were not home.

Before McDonald and Myers could get to work on Dixie Drive, a four-man team from the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. had to remove branches and sections of trunk that strained against the wires.

Asplundh is under contract to do the utility's tree-removal work, from simple trimmings to emergency jobs, said BG&E spokeswoman Peggy Mulloy.

Jody Turner, an Asplundh worker for three years, said he and his colleagues arrived on Dixie Drive at about 9 a.m. yesterday. They had been working nonstop on similar jobs around Baltimore County since 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

"It's rough doing these hours without a break," said Turner, who broke long enough to light a cigarette. "You just try to keep moving and not think about it. You grab a soda or a coffee now and then."

Asplundh crews work maximum shifts of 23 hours, said Turner. "Then we get a six-hour break, but we can be called right back for another 23-hour shift if necessary," he said.

With McDonald climbing utility poles and Myers sending up equipment from the ground, the BG&E team repaired the wires behind the Carter house and connected them back onto a transformer atop a pole.

About 2 p.m., the two men drove in a "bucket truck" to a utility pole on West Chesapeake Avenue, about an oak's fall away from Dixie Drive. McDonald, working from a cherry-picker-style "bucket" that lifted him to the top of the pole, switched on a fuse that finally restored power to the neighborhood after an outage of 24 hours.

Long work shifts notwithstanding, Myers said he likes his job:

"You're outdoors. You're doing something different every day, so it's not monotonous work. Like right now. I'm sure we have another job to do, but we won't know what it is till we phone in."

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