Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Day off at U. of Md. Dampened by Power Outages

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Clusters of University of Maryland students scoured Route 1 for an open restaurant Thursday morning in the aftermath of a thunderous snowstorm that left many homes and apartments in the area – and the region – without power.

The campus was closed for the day, and quiet.

Along the strip of restaurants just south of campus, people futilely shook the doors of restaurants to see if they were open. Noodles & Co. was one of the few that was, and the line there stretched out the door at times.

“I can’t make food, because there is no power in my apartment, and now all these places are closed, too,” said junior history major Gary Roberge, who lives in College Park. “At this point, I’m willing to eat anything.”

Power went out in South Campus Commons around 9 p.m., returned at 9:30 and went out for the night around 10 p.m. Power returned at 11:04 a.m. Thursday, and heat returned to the rooms, said resident assistant Robbie Rosenthal.

The University View, an off-campus apartment building, lost power from 8 p.m. Wednesday until 11 a.m. Thursday, and an alarm went off between 8 p.m. and midnight, residents said.

Rosenthal, a junior government and politics major, was the resident assistant on duty in the Commons Wednesday night. Rosenthal was on fire watch because the fire alarms were not working, due to the lost power. RAs walked around with megaphones in case there was a fire, so they could tell students to evacuate.

“There were a lot more parties than usual,” Rosenthal said. “People were assuming there would be no class,” because of the driving snow that fell throughout the afternoon, ending just before midnight.

More than 7 inches fell at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and a foot of snow fell in other parts of the state, the National Weather Service reported.

Students flocked to the Eppley Recreation Center on campus Thursday morning. Junior economics and psychology major Chris Chan had to wait to use most of the equipment.

“Right around noon, everyone—and I mean everyone—came out,” he said.

A number of students looking for a place to study gathered in the food court of the Stamp Student Union.

“I’m going to study all day,” said freshman letters and sciences major Cassie Dafin. “There’s not a lot of work yet, but I don’t want to fall behind.”

–by Maryland Newsline’s Collin Berglund

BGE: More Outages This Year Than During 2010 Blizzards

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
Mike Murtha, 43, his son Sasha, 10, and daughter Kristina, 9, shovel snow in front of their home on Poplar Avenue in Arbutus, Md., on Thursday. (Photo by Maryland Newsline's Alexander Pyles)

Mike Murtha, 43, his son Sasha, 10, and daughter Kristina, 9, shovel snow in front of their home on Poplar Avenue in Arbutus, Md., on Thursday. (Photo by Maryland Newsline's Alexander Pyles)

ARBUTUS, Md. – As Mike Murtha worked with his family to clear the sidewalk and driveway at his home on Poplar Avenue, he couldn’t help but think how lucky he was.

Murtha, 43, never lost power at his southwest Baltimore County home as snow fell Wednesday afternoon and evening, though there were a few moments when he was nervous.

“We had some [light] flickers,” he said. “But we lucked out.”

Murtha wasn’t kidding; more Baltimore Gas and Electric customers lost power as a result of Wednesday’s snowstorm than in 2010’s back-to-back blizzards, a BGE statement said, because of the wet snow that dragged down trees and power lines.

As much as 12 inches of snow fell in some parts of the state, including Baltimore and Montgomery counties, the National Weather Service reported.

As of 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon, more than 12,000 customers remained without power in Baltimore County, a total exceeded only by Anne Arundel County’s 37,780 customers.

In total, nearly 77,000 BGE customers were still without power, less than half of the original total of more than 200,000 customers since Wednesday.

“We are working to get everyone back as safely and quickly as possible,” said Linda Foy, a BGE spokeswoman.

Foy said crews were on the way from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and North Carolina to assist in the restoration of power, but some of those reinforcements may not arrive in the area until Friday. More than 1,000 BGE employees already in Maryland are working, she said.

Employees are working 12- to 16-hour shifts in the field, and at the storm center, call center and other locations, a BGE statement said.

Repairs have been slow in some areas, Foy said, because trucks may not be able to traverse tight side streets. Other equipment may not be accessible due to road conditions.

“There are some challenges,” Foy said. “Depending on the conditions or the situation, we may not necessarily have to wait [to restore power to an area], but if you’re not able to get your bucket truck, for instance … sometimes the crews will have to actually take the equipment they can carry.”

BGE has not provided an estimated completion time for all power restoration, Foy said, in part because that is dependent upon how quickly reinforcements arrive.

Meanwhile, Pepco announced that it expects all power to be restored in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Washington, D.C., by 11 p.m. Friday, its website said.

Montgomery was hit especially hard, and still had more than 113,000 customers without power Thursday afternoon. That’s more than 37 percent of Pepco’s total number of customers in that county.

Less than 12 percent of Pepco customers in Prince George’s County were without power as of Thursday afternoon, or about 22,000 people.

Less than 10 percent were without power in the District.

Even for those still with power, Thursday was a challenge. Will Sipes, of Arbutus, said he was one of the last on his block out to shovel the sidewalk.

“I’m the late guy,” he said, hat pulled tightly over his ears. Sipes said he likes snow but “not when it’s a lot.”

Murtha and his family, including 9-year-old Kristina and 10-year-old Sasha, who helped their father shovel the sidewalk Thursday afternoon, were just grateful there wasn’t as much snow on the ground as last year.

“Yeah, I like the snow, I like the thought of the snow,” Mike Murtha said. “This is easy compared to last year.”

His shoveling job was made easier, he said, by snow plows that hit his one-lane street earlier than usual. The road surface was largely without slush and stripped down to blacktop Thursday morning.

And Murtha had a theory for why his little street received such quick attention.

“I think it helps that [former Maryland governor Robert] Ehrlich used to live in Arbutus,” he said. “So I think he still has some pull.”

For real-time updates on outages, check BGE’s power outage map and Pepco’s outage map.

-By Maryland Newsline’s Alexander Pyles

Despite Snow, State Police Report No Major Accidents

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Highways were slushy, slippery and crowded statewide for much of rush hour Wednesday night, but no traffic fatalities or other major accidents were reported, Maryland State Police said early Thursday.

But as the region attempts to dig out of up to a foot of snow and road crews remain at work today, police spokesman Elena Russo said it is too early to determine its total impact.

Russo did say state police have been kept busy with reports of minor traffic accidents, but she couldn’t quantify those.

“At this point it is too early to see how many serious accidents the snow caused,” Russo said. “We’ve got scores of minor crashes that we responded to, but a lot of times we might not even be called out to [some of those].”

Police were also still trying to clear abandoned vehicles from highways, she said. More than 150 vehicles were towed, awaiting owners to pick them up.

Each police barrack has separate tow company information, Russo said, and people looking for their vehicles should contact their local barrack to determine where their vehicle has been taken.

Cars were abandoned alongside northbound Interstate 95 as early as 6 p.m. Wednesday, as snow fell steadily and brought traffic to a crawl between the Capital Beltway and Baltimore.

-By Maryland Newsline’s Alexander Pyles

Baby, It’s Snowy Outside…

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

University of Maryland doctoral student Yiqun Chen, 24, clears her windshield at the Graduate Hills apartments in Hyattsville Thursday morning. "I came here from Pittsburgh, so I'm used to this," she said. "It's just cold out here." (Capital News Service photo by Jessica Harper)

HYATTSVILLE, Md. – After a few misses, snow finally hit the D.C.-metro area in a big way, falling at a rate of up to 2 inches an hour from late Wednesday afternoon to the early hours of Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

Parts of Baltimore County and Montgomery, Harford and Howard counties saw some of the highest totals in Maryland, with about 12 inches accumulating, according to unofficial reports published by the National Weather Service.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport saw 7.6 inches, Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., reported 7.3 inches, and Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., recorded 5, said NWS meteorologist Kevin Witt.

The accumulation actually came in two storms, Witt said, with the first arriving Tuesday night through Wednesday morning.

Moderate to heavy snows combined with wind gusts caused fallen tree limbs and power outages across the region.

Residents at the Graduate Hills apartments in Hyattsville, Md., were fortunate to have power, and some used the day off to spend time with their families.

“Well, I’m from Michigan, so this is good springtime weather,” said William House, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland.

House’s 2-year-old son, Robbie, played in the snow as he chatted with passersby. House said this is only the second time Robbie has seen the snow.

“We could probably go out in a little while, but I don’t think we will,” said House. “On a day like this, I just choose to stay home with my son.”

Economics doctoral student Yiqun Chen, 24, was a little less enthusiastic.

“I came here from Pittsburgh, so I’m used to this,” she said, as she scraped mounds of snow from her windshield. “It’s just cold out here.”

For more, see the National Weather Service snow map.

–By Capital News Service’s Jessica Harper, with Maryland Newsline’s Maite Fernandez

Snow Causes Hundreds of Md. Highway Accidents

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Maryland State Police have responded to more than 700 accidents since Friday, when the first of two blizzards hit the region, said spokesman Greg Shipley.

More than a third of the accidents included personal injuries or required vehicles to be towed.

But none of the accidents were fatal.

“This is an unprecedented storm period,” Shipley said. “The accidents have correlated to reflect such.”

Prince George’s County Police Department spokesman Henry Tippett called the lack of fatalities a blessing, and credited the snow with deterring deaths.

“Because of the snow, people can’t speed,” he said.

Shipley said the accidents occurred with more frequency than in a normal week, but were not concentrated in any specific area. He said the majority were caused by people driving vehicles not equipped to handle the hazardous conditions.

“We urge everybody to really evaluate whether they have a reason to drive,” Shipley said.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Zettler Clay

It’s Official: Record Snowfall for Baltimore Area

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The National Weather Service made it official at about 7 a.m. this morning, when it recorded 5.2 inches of new snow at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

That accumulation was enough to give Baltimore a record snowfall for the season –besting the 62.5 inches recorded at the airport during 1995-’96.

And snow was still falling.

What remains to be seen is by how many inches the season record will be smashed. At BWI, the two-day accumulation stood at 11.9 inches at 1 p.m. today. That means the new season record of 72.3 inches had already smashed the old one by nearly 10 inches.

Record keeping for snowfall in Baltimore dates back as far as 1893.

New records were also set at Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

An update extended the current winter storm warning to 10 p.m. this evening.

The weather service has added a blizzard warning to the mix, thanks to wind gusts of up to 40 mph in some areas. The service issued a warning earlier today urging drivers to stay at home due to the blizzard-like winds and whiteout conditions.

It said Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties and the city of Baltimore were experiencing the harshest conditions. And in Baltimore, city officials warned that only emergency vehicles were allowed on the roads.

–From Maryland Newsline’s Ben Giles

Roads in Prince George’s County were narrow or impassable on Wednesday, when the second blizzard in a week hit the region. (Photo by Maryland Newsline’s Ben Giles)

Power Outages Expected, More Snow on Way

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Thousands of Marylanders are still without power following last weekend’s blizzard, and officials say more outages could occur during the snowstorm expected to move into the region today.

Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. reported more than 98,000 power outages among its customers since Friday’s snowfall–most in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. As of Tuesday afternoon, 97,982 had been restored, leaving a little over 500 without power.

BGE has more than 1.26 million customers in Maryland.

Pepco fielded calls on about 108,000 power outages at the height of the storm, said Bob Hainey, Pepco manager of media relations. More than 80,000 of them were in the Montgomery County area.

“Montgomery County has a lot of trees,” Hainey said, “and once snow hits the trees, the power lines are next.”

Pepco restored more than 70,000 homes in Montgomery County. But as of Tuesday afternoon, there were 9,190 Montgomery County Pepco customers still without power, 255 in Prince George’s County and 193 in Washington, D.C., Hainey said.

Spokesmen for both companies said their crews are working around the clock to restore power.

BGE has “linemen from Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio assisting us,” said BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy.

More power outages are expected today and tomorrow, officials said, when another 10 to 20 inches of snow are expected to fall in the region, topping the two or more feet that fell last weekend.

Hainey said those with existing power outages will be first priority and will not fall to the bottom of the queue.

If power goes out in your home, Foy urged using flashlights rather than candles, which are a safety hazard.

BGE also asks customers to clear vent pipes and outside meters, to prevent them from malfunctioning.

Hainey urged customers to be mindful of carbon monoxide, which can come from using charcoal grills too close to the house or operating portable generators improperly. Carbon monoxide can go undetected in a home because it’s without a smell.

“We tell people don’t do anything to project carbon monoxide, because it can kill you,” Hainey said.

By Maryland Newsline’s Zettler Clay

Region in Store for Record Snowfall

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

If current weather predictions are right, the Baltimore-Washington region will easily surpass its previous all-time high for snow accumulation in one season.

The current accumulation for this 2009-2010 season stands at 60.4 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport — good for second in the history books, according to the National Weather Service:

  • 62.5 inches (1995-96)
  • 60.4 inches (2009-10)
  • 58.2 inches (2002-03)
  • 51.8 inches (1963-62)

Another 10 to 20 inches of snowfall in the region are expected between this afternoon and 7 p.m. Wednesday, according to the latest winter storm warning issued by the weather service. Snow is expected to be accompanied by strong winds.

From Maryland Newsline’s Ben Giles

Stores in Overdrive Stocking Shelves for Storm

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Long lines of cautious customers left several shelves at a Safeway in Bowie barren on Friday, as snow began settling on the region.

The usual panic purchases of milk, eggs and toilet paper were hit the hardest, said Craig M. Muckle, public affairs manager of Safeway’s Eastern Division.

But, Muckle said, more stock should be on the way. Trucks are scheduled to make more deliveries to stores overnight into Saturday morning, so long as roads are safe.

The only item that may remain out of stock is bread, which is shipped to stores from an external vendor, he said.

Muckle credited long-term weather forecasts with allowing his store managers the time needed to order extra shipments of food and supplies. Leading up to a snow storm, Safeway will sell as much as three times its normal percentage of stock, he said.

Since this weekend is also Super Bowl weekend, customers have also been stocking up on party and snack foods in anticipation of Sunday’s big game.

Landover resident Michelle Peters left the Fairview Parkway Safeway in Bowie with an overflowing grocery cart.

“We’re mostly covering junk food,” Peters said. “We’re only having a few friends over, but some of them are bottomless pits.”

-By Maryland Newsline’s Ben Giles

Kyle Johnson rings up a grocery cart full of goods for Landover resident Michelle Peters,
left, at the Fairview Parkway Safeway in Bowie.

(Photo by Maryland Newsline’s Ben Giles)

Winter Storm Hits, Drivers Urged to Stay Home

Friday, February 5th, 2010

The Maryland State Highway Administration is urging drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary while this winter snow storm barrels through the region.

SHA spokesman David Buck says snow plows will do their best to keep roads clean and safe, but in a storm like this, there are no guarantees.

“I think it’s going to be about managing expectations out there,” he said. “For us, we’re just going to try to keep up.”

NOAA’s National Weather Service says its winter storm warning for the D.C.-metro region and greater Maryland will remain in effect until 10 p.m. Saturday, when meteorologists expect the snowfall to subside. Accumulation estimates now range from 20 to 30 inches of snow.

It’s unclear if roads will be ready for people to drive to work and school on Monday.

“That would be an answer we have at the end of the storm,” Buck said. “As we saw last weekend, the weather predictions can be way off, and there’s absolutely no way to know how soon roads will be ready until the storm is over.”

Maryland has already blown through its $26 million snow-removal budget this year; $50 million had already been spent before this weekend’s storm, Buck said.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Ben Giles