Archive for the ‘Snowstorms of 2011’ 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