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Anger of Residents Without Power Rises

By Stephen E. Mather and Marisa Navarro
Capital News Service
Friday, Sept. 26, 2003

WASHINGTON - Pepco left a recorded message Friday at Marcia Meyer's house, telling the College Park resident that her power had finally been restored.

That was a surprise to Meyer, one of more than 7,000 Maryland residents still without electricity Friday, more than a week after Hurricane Isabel hit the region.

Power company officials across the state said they were confident that they would have everyone back on line by Friday night, the deadline they set for themselves last week when as many as 1.25 million people were without power.

Meyer remains skeptical.

"I'm not confident about it," said Meyer, who was the only one in her neighborhood without power Friday. "It's a shame that not more is being done."

About 3,600 Pepco customers and 3,400 Baltimore Gas & Electric customers were without power as of midday Friday, according to the Maryland Public Service Commission. Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative reported 185 outages by midday.

The commission said Conectiv, Choptank and Allegheny Power companies reported that all their customers were back online Friday.

Remaining outages were scattered throughout the state, but the highest concentrations were in Baltimore and Montgomery counties, which each had about 2,000 homes in the dark.

BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy blamed the large number of fallen trees for the delay in restoring power. The company had "entire trees coming down on our lines," she said.

"You've got to cut and clear trees first . . . before you can get to the lines," Foy said.

Pepco Board Chairman John Derrick defended his company's response to the outages Friday during an appearance on WTOP's "The Politics Program," where he fielded calls from angry customers.

"Given the scope of this event . . . I think the effort Pepco has put in . . . has been OK," Derrick said.

Derrick's assurances were of little comfort to Meyer and other residents who endured a lengthy blackout.

Meyer said she gets "angrier by the hour." The nearly one-dozen calls she placed with Pepco customer service have been useless, she said.

For more than a week, Meyer has been eating out every night and using the bathroom at her job at the University of Maryland to blow-dry her hair and put on her makeup.

Silver Spring resident Ernest Johnson had his power restored Wednesday, but he was no happier about the days of darkness than Meyer.

The self-described sports and political junkie said he could not watch football games or political talk shows for most of the week. Johnson, his wife and two kids entertained themselves by listening to music on their battery-operated radio.

Johnson, who came to this country from Liberia 20 years ago, was surprised that it took crews this long to restore power.

"This is America. It's strange for things like that to happen here," he said.

Copyright 2003 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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