Area tries to stay cool, assess storm damage

BGE works to restore electricity to thousands

residents begin cleanup

August 05, 2002|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Michael Watkins woke up yesterday morning to a house without working air conditioners and two freezers full of rapidly melting food.

"I figured the power would come back by morning, but we're still out from the storms," said Watkins, 54, after taking a bus from his Park Heights home to Mondawmin Mall to pick up free bags of dry ice. "Everything is a meltdown."

As crews from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. worked to restore power yesterday to thousands of customers affected by the weekend's series of thunderstorms, Marylanders again sweltered amid hot and humid temperatures in the mid-90s.

For those who had been without electricity for more than 24 hours, the combination of high heat and no air conditioning or fans quickly became intolerable.

"It's been getting so hot that I had to go to my mother-in-law's house to cool off," said longshoreman Anthony Wallace, 45, of Clifton Park, who had been without electricity since early Saturday.

About 122,000 BGE customers lost electricity during the weekend from the storms - some more than once, said company spokesman Clay C. Perry. The storms began about 8 p.m. Friday and continued sporadically through Saturday afternoon.

About 18,000 customers were without power yesterday morning, and that number had dropped to about 6,800 by 11 p.m., said BGE spokeswoman Sharon Sasada.

Sasada said repair crews would be working overnight to get services restored early today.

BGE set up four sites in Baltimore and Baltimore County to distribute dry ice to people without electricity to help them try to preserve frozen food.

"We've got some chicken and lots of seafood in the freezer, and I'm worried about it," said Karen Orange of Pikesville, who stopped at the mall with her daughter Cherise, 13, to pick up dry ice on their way home from church. "I haven't opened the freezer since the power went out because I'm afraid to see what it looks like. I hope this well help."

BGE officials said the dry ice typically keeps freezers cold for about 24 hours. By 4 p.m. yesterday, almost 1,200 bags of dry ice pellets - each weighing between 10 and 15 pounds - had been handed out at the four sites, Perry said.

Communities across the Baltimore area continued to survey the extent of damage from Saturday's thunderstorms, during which lightning killed a Frederick man and caused a fire that destroyed a Clarksville home.

Baltimore's Patterson Park was littered with fallen branches and badly split trees, prompting more than four dozen neighborhood residents to spend much of yesterday cleaning up. A handful of city workers brought in equipment to begin cutting up larger limbs and trees.

"Early in the morning, everything looked awful," said Maureen O'Connor, who jogs through the park each morning with her golden retriever Callie and spent much of yesterday helping clean up. "At least everything is in piles now."

Craig Thompson, who lives in nearby Butchers Hill, said he and other residents hope that gathering the broken limbs and branches will enable city workers to bring in equipment to start chipping the wood by as soon as today.

In Howard, County Executive James N. Robey, said lightning caused other fires, including one that destroyed a barn at the Ellicott City farm of former state Sen. James Clark. Wind or rain also caused a wall to collapse at a construction project at the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City, said Robey, who was campaigning at the Howard County Fair.

Robey and Police Chief Wayne Livesay said some callers were unable to get through to 911 because of the sudden volume of calls as the storm swept through the county. Neighbors of the family that lost its home in Clarksville had reported delays Saturday afternoon when they tried to call firefighters.

"Cell phones are the best thing and cell phones are the worst thing," Robey said, explaining that the 911 center received more than 60 calls almost simultaneously.

Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

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