Outage darkens Valentine's Day for Annapolis residents

Power restored to 90% in two hours, but lovers, drivers, legislators suffer

February 15, 2005|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

It became a dark Valentine's Day in Annapolis - some lovers' dinners canceled, motorists annoyed and legislative hearings disrupted - as the power went out for about 10,000 customers of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. yesterday.

BGE blamed an equipment malfunction for the 4 p.m. surprise that complicated rush-hour traffic and consequently delayed crews from reaching the problem site at the utility's Cedar Park substation.

Power had been restored to about 90 percent of those affected within two hours - and to all customers by 7 p.m. - said BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy. But restaurateurs faced with packed reservation books said the outage was long enough to delay preparations for a busy night of romantic dinners.

"We have lost a whole hour for seating - we are running like crazy," said Silvana Silvestrini, owner of Ristorante Piccola Roma on Main Street.

Silvestrini said she prides herself on the good service and was disappointed that the last-minute glitch forced her to call several regular customers, canceling their early seatings.

"Why couldn't it have happened tomorrow? It was very disappointing ... especially on an important day," she said. "Now those people are stranded with no plans for the night. I think that is what is the worst part."

For others, the outage cut short the workday, if only by an hour or so, and many workers happily left a few minutes before the usual quitting time.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court officially shut down 30 minutes early, about 4 p.m., said Robert G. Wallace, court administrator. "I said they can stay if they want, but ... "

Several blocks away, legislators made a few concessions to the blackout but otherwise kept to their schedules.

Rather than send home candidates for judgeships and seats on state advisory boards - including former Baltimore Oriole Bill Ripken, who is up for a seat on the Maryland Tourism Board - the state Senate's executive nominations committee set up a makeshift hearing room under a pair of emergency lights in a first-floor hallway of the Senate office building.

"We have a little mood lighting for Valentine's Day," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, an Anne Arundel Democrat and committee chairman.

Early departures added to congestion on jammed city roadways that already have been sporadically snarled due to construction. But just getting out of lightless underground garages was also a challenge for some.

With police directing bumper-to-bumper traffic, the five-minute drive from downtown garages on Calvert Street to the Rowe Boulevard ramp onto U.S. 50 took 40 minutes instead.

Many avoided the traffic by hanging out in local cafes and watering holes, where 9-to-5 staffers crowded bar stools and tavern tables by candlelight.

Lawyer David Carter and four others from his office left work shortly after the outage and sought refuge at Sean Donlon's Irish Pub until about 5:30 p.m.

Carter said he said told his staff: "We can't do anything else, so let's go drink."

Sun staff writers Liz F. Kay, Andrea F. Siegel and Andrew A. Green contributed to this article.

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