BG&E's night quieter than expected THE BLIZZARD OF 1993

March 15, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

It was supposed to be a miserable night. But Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews were deployed and ready.

Weather reports predicted a "second wave" of snow and unusually high winds -- and thus more fallen trees, broken limbs and chaos Saturday night and early yesterday.

But, except for a few areas in northern Anne Arundel County, it didn't happen.

As the storm system raced to the Northeast, the hours before dawn yesterday saw only sporadic bursts that added little to the TC Baltimore area's misery. The wind -- though gusting and bone-chilling -- did not prove nearly as severe as forecasts had projected.

For Will Weber, a BG&E service operator in Baltimore, the night turned out to be relatively quiet. While other crew members labored for hours to return power to thousands of homes in Glen Burnie, the calm and quiet city made for routine calls.

Two fuses blew out at a trucking company in Southeast Baltimore, blacking out a parking lot. Snow piled on a woman's porch in Northwest Baltimore seeped into a basement and shorted out a main circuit, leaving her without lights or heat for several hours.

Other crew members spent a busy morning on Mount Holly Street, repairing a power line that had been knocked to the ground by a tree in a back yard. It took seven workers about five hours to restore power to 300 homes.

At 11 p.m. yesterday, a BG&E spokesman said power had been restored for almost all of the 132,000 customers who had lost it during the storm. Only five customers were still waiting.

Yesterday morning, 6,450 people were still without power, 3,600 of them in Anne Arundel.

"I don't know what happened to the wind," said Art Slusark, a BG&E spokesman, adding that the company and its people on the front line -- the work crews -- expected 60 to 70 mph gusts. "That's what we feared the most."

But throughout the morning, the workers, some of whom had been on the job for 12 or more hours, were able to keep up with the damage.

"It's dedication," said Mr. Weber, 35, who has worked 10 years for BG&E. "When a storm comes, we are as important as the Police Department."

But the public doesn't understand that, he and two co-workers said as they stood in a knee-deep snowdrift just past midnight in a Canton industrial park on Holabird Avenue.

"This guy got on WBAL radio and ran his big mouth saying all we do is ride around," said Scott Vogt, explaining that some customers were upset after a snowstorm three weeks ago that didn't change to rain as predicted.

"After the last storm, customers complained because they were out of service," Mr. Vogt said. "That storm kind of took us by surprise."

"People pay a premium dollar for service and they want it," said Mr. Weber, who left for the Holabird Avenue call about 10 p.m. to check on lights out at the Port East Transfer Co. When he pulled up to the front gate, Mr. Vogt was already there.

Eventually, the three workers found a back parking lot in the dark. After backing up on Holabird, an unplowed narrow street lined with tractor-trailers, they found two broken fuses hanging from a pole.

After they repaired the damage, Timmy Gordon's truck got stuck, and Mr. Vogt pulled him out. From there, it was on to a call in East Baltimore that was unfounded and then to a 7-Eleven on Pulaski Highway for soft drinks and hot dogs.

Then, Mr. Weber was dispatched to Betty Sykes' home, in the 3500 block of Holmes Ave. She had called at 11:20 p.m., reporting that her power had gone out. Mr. Weber got the call about 2 a.m. and arrived at the two-story rowhouse 20 minutes later.

"Was it my fault, or was it the snow?" asked Ms. Sykes, who said she rented the first floor.

Mr. Weber went down the steep wooden stairs into the basement, found a light socket that had shorted because of a leak from melting snow and fixed the problem.

A few minutes later, Mr. Weber pulled up in the 2600 block of Mount Holly St., where workers were putting a pole back up and restringing lines that lay across several backyards.

The work was made more difficult because trucks could not get near the problem. Workers had to climb the pole instead of using a cherry-picker. They spent hours in the snow.

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