Was Isabel too powerful for Maryland?

Question Of The Month

October 25, 2003

Q: Do you think Maryland was adequately prepared for Hurricane Isabel? What lessons can we learn from that storm and what should the state do to be ready for future big storms?

Hurricane Isabel was too powerful for Maryland.

The problems that put Marylanders in the dark for so long are few, but very serious.

First, we need to bury our power lines underground so that wind, rain, snow and other weather concerns no longer pose a problem.

As a seven-year resident of South Florida and a 32-year resident of Maryland, I can easily see the difference between buried power lines and non-buried lines. Not once during my seven years in Florida did my electricity ever go out for more than a few minutes. Moreover, no one that I knew ever had even a day-long power outage.

I was in Florida through many severe tropical storms, summers of terrible winds and flooding rains, but not once did a school or a business close for more than a day, nor did a business.

Second, while we wait for the necessary burial of our power lines, we need to get all available crews out to clear away branches, vines, overhanging trees and other damaging sources to avoid another major problem or even just normal minor storm outages.

It amazes me how many lines are still covered with trees and branches.

Jill Hack

Pikesville

If one starts from the principle that we should "expect the unexpected," then some parts of Maryland were not prepared for Hurricane Isabel. And the experience should be used as a planning tool for the future.

Would it not be wise for a committee involving government, police and fire officials, utility companies and representatives of insurance companies to meet and develop guidelines to minimize loss of life and utilities and property damage during such storms?

The recommendations could include the following:

Begin a phased-in burial of utility lines.

Prohibit parking in storm surge areas for 24 to 48 hours during a storm.

Mandate that damaged waterfront structures are rebuilt above the floor plain.

Establish staging points for police and rescue vehicles with observers ready to react in advance of a storm.

Have shelters open in advance of a storm's arrival.

Create staging points with offices for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance adjusters.

Develop an updated dry ice distribution plan for the region if there is prolonged power loss.

Daniel E. Withey

Sykesville

My opinions regarding Maryland's preparations for Hurricane Isabel are mostly limited to the dismal recovery performance of our local electric utility, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

It was obvious even before the storm that tree-trimming has been neglected for years -- in many places high-tension service distribution lines disappear into groves of trees and cannot even be seen.

This was reflected in the thousands of circuit failures during the storm that were caused by falling tree limbs.

Also, it was painfully obvious that many of the distant utility service crews recruited for the restoration job were not being efficiently used. Many of their trucks sat idle for much of the extended recovery time.

Why doesn't the state's Public Service Commission mandate meaningful service quality and priority standards for both routine times and disaster recovery?

W. Van Aller

White Hall

Please, oh please, do not heap praises on our state government and BGE for their response to the damage caused by Hurricane Isabel.

Even after a dress rehearsal in 1999, the company's response was totally inadequate.

D. Heston

Glen Arm

Maryland was definitely as prepared as was reasonably possible for Hurricane Isabel's landfall.

I think the local representatives who helped the citizens prepare did a superb job, and the local news media are due much appreciation from Marylanders.

National meteorologists gave very accurate information regarding regions to be affected.

And Maryland representatives acted efficiently and gave us days of warnings to be prepared as well as making some supplies available to prevent as much damage as possible.

Karen Roberts

Catonsville

Obviously, no one can be completely prepared for a hurricane. However, certain forms of readiness can be achieved, and one such improvement would be to put power lines underground, especially in areas where they are now surrounded by trees.

I have often suggested to BGE that they simply trim the trees away from the lines, but they don't see fit to do this.

Tax money might be used to help facilitate freeing wires from trees.

Franklin W. Littleton

Baltimore

The lessons we learned from Hurricane Isabel are that Mother Nature or God is the real superpower. And that education is the key for preparations.

Oceans cover most of the Earth. We cannot stop what they want to do.

Hurricanes are unpredictable, but take heed to warnings and seek higher ground to save lives.

Carol Brooks

Dundalk

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