Residents improvise to deal with 5 days without electricity

3,400 in Howard still awaiting restoration of power from storm

September 21, 1999|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After the power went out Thursday in Ellicott City, Darlene Brnich sent her three children to her mother's house in Columbia and her in-laws in Ellicott City so they could use the electrical equipment that delivers their asthma treatment.

Brnich said that when she called Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., a representative told her there were alternative forms of asthma treatment.

Brnich's family was using a generator yesterday, but she has called BGE every day to find out when power will be restored.

She and about 3,400 other Howard County residents without power are growing angrier and more frustrated as they begin another day of living in the dark.

"I realize that these things happen, but five days is really too long," said Donna Carroll of the Valley Mede section of Ellicott City.

Carroll has tried to cope by finding creative ways to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and going to the Turf Valley Resort to use its electricity to style her hair before attending a wedding.

"After a while, it's too much," she said.

Jessica Brown, a BGE spokeswoman, said last night the utility understands customers' increasing frustration and is doing everything it can to restore power.

"This is the worst storm BGE has ever seen," Brown said.

The heavy rain and wind caused trees and utility poles to come out the ground, she said, and repair work has been "complicated and time-consuming."

Another Ellicott City resident, Jennifer Bowman, said she was "extremely frustrated" because she had to leave home with her husband and two young children and stay with a family a mile away where there is power.

After failing to reach BGE during a previous outage, she did not try to call the emergency number this time.

"I figure, what's the point?" she said yesterday. "They're going to tell me to be patient. I've been patient."

Bowman was particularly irritated by daily television news reports quoting BGE officials as saying that power would be restored by evening. "If it's going to take a while, just tell me," she said. "At least be frank with me."

Todd Marvin is keeping count of the days on a plywood sign outside his German Road home in Ellicott City.

The sign reads: "BG&E Help!"

"This to me was just a breeze," Marvin said. "God forbid we get a real hurricane. We'll be out for a month."

"I can't believe a big company like BGE wasn't better prepared," Bowman said. "We all saw on TV a big storm was coming. Their response is almost as disgusting. I don't recall hearing an apology."

"We are sincerely apologetic," Brown said.

Said Carroll: "There needs to be more accountability."

Brnich said BGE told her that power might be restored today or tomorrow. Until then, she plans to put her children to bed early with illumination from a flashlight.

"What else can you do?" she said.

Pub Date: 9/21/99

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