The Mason family, Rob, wife Chris and 20-year-old son Nick have… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
Members of the Mason family have spent much of their time since Wednesday evening huddled in front of the fireplace in their Clarksville home wearing winter clothes and waiting for the power to return.
On Friday afternoon, Rob Mason, his wife, Chris, and son Nick recounted how they've had to make do: showers at a nearby fitness center, bathroom breaks at McDonald's and soup cooked over a propane stove. Without electricity, they can't flush their toilets or shower because their water comes from an electronically operated well.
Rob Mason says he's called Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. some 30 times. Crews have responded twice but haven't been able to fix the problem — probably tree branches on a power line.
They're not the only ones on Redberry Road without power. According to BGE officials, about 27 houses are still without power on the Howard County street.
"The whole frustrating thing is that they come out and say, 'Oh, we can't fix it.' And we get dropped to the bottom of the list," said Mason, 48, who moved here from Southern California last year and works for a trade union. "Their motto is, 'We won't leave until the power's back on.' That is not true."
Power outages during snowstorms are nothing new: Snow accumulates on tree branches, they crack under the weight and fall on power lines. But living for days without electricity in 2011 gets old fast.
BGE officials say Wednesday's fast-moving storm was "one of the most damaging winter storms in BGE's history" and they've worked to restore service to its customers. By Saturday afternoon, service had been restored to most of the 209,000 customers who lost power during the storm; about 3,400 customers were still in the dark.
BGE assigned about 2,000 workers to the outages, including 800 linemen and support staff from eight states.
According to BGE, Wednesday's storm caused 50 percent more outages than last February's back-to-back snowstorms.
Spokesman Rob Gould said the company expected to have "the vast majority" restored by Saturday night. Anne Arundel County was hit the hardest, he said.
"We are aggressively attacking the outages," Gould said. "This has been a very massive force of destruction — heavy, wet snow. It was just too much for the tree limbs."
But for those without power, that's little consolation. Without TV, Internet and cell phones, it can be hard to function.
Though the Masons are dealing with the cold and lack of television, they say they're concerned about their neighbors, many of whom are elderly.
Lawrence Kroger is 82, a retired federal worker, and on Friday afternoon was sitting in his living room wearing a sweater and navy blue ski hat, his walker by his side. His wife, Phyllis Kroger, who would say only that she's in her 70s, sat on a chair nearby, covered with two blankets.
A wood-burning stove has provided some warmth and allows them to fix meals.
"I don't think I can take another day of clam chowder and instant coffee," she said.
They've used bottled water to brush their teeth and for flushing the toilets. Lawrence Kroger says he's busied himself by reading a magazine profile of Kentucky's Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell.
"Not only is the weather bad, he's bad," Kroger said with a deadpan expression.
Inside a Starbucks at a shopping mall in Columbia, Jean Evansmoore plopped down at a table with her laptop, an escape from her 40-degree house in Ellicott City. She didn't take off her fur hat or fur coat as she surfed the Internet for about an hour before leaving to find dinner.
She also lost power Wednesday night and is waiting for it to return.
Evansmoore, who is 70 and recently widowed, says she's spent hours going through papers at her house while wearing gloves. And though she says she's normally a "glass-half-full" person, the cold is starting to wear on her.
"I know I'm blessed," she said. "But I'm taking this opportunity to just moan and complain."