Ice, winds cause massive power outages
Thousands were without electricity due to brush with winter storm Stella
Charles County did not get hit with the same snow that many parts of northern Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia did, but the residual ice storm of Winter Storm Stella still came down hard on county residents.
As of 11:31 a.m. Tuesday, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative reported that thousands of people were without power in Charles County as a result
of the ice storm.
Tom Dennison, gov- ernment and public af- fairs managing director for SMECO, said many trees in the area were weighed down by ice and damaged by winds. That weight caused them to lean into power lines throughout the area and disrupted service for customers.
“Ice and wind make a treacherous combina- tion,” Dennison said. “At this time, transmission lines and most feeders are operational, but, while crews are making repairs, weather conditions will continue to cause additional out- ages.”
Along with the rain and sleet from Monday evening, he said, the wind speeds increased over- night and created outag- es in the area that began at 3 a.m. There were more than 300 incidents in total, he said, that caused 14,000 outages as of 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
Repairs were made by the afternoon and that number was cut down to 6,650. As of 12:43 p.m. on Monday, there were 5,157 customers still ex- periencing outages in Charles County.
As of 4:35 p.m. on Wednesday evening, Dennison said, all customers affected by the storm had their power restored. Still, he said, there is work to be done to ensure that everyone’s power remains on.
“Unfortunately, new outages continue to be reported as more trees and limbs fell on power lines today,” Dennison said Wednesday evening.
A majority of the outages were in Charles County and northern St. Mary’s County, he said. SMECO crews, along with contractor crews, worked throughout the week to restore power to SMECO customers.
As many as 44,800 customers were individually affected by power outages at some point since the storm started, Dennison said. As they restored power in other places, new outages would occur, he said.
There were also hundreds of incidents logged outside SMECO’s management system, Dennison said. An incident is caused by things like a tree falling on a power line, a blown transform- er, an open substation feeder or a downed wire, he said.
Donna Fuqua, a public information officer for the county, said there were reports of downed trees scattered throughout the county.
There were various road closures due to downed trees in the area, she said, including on Brooks Farm Road, Chapel Point Road, Route 5 and Timothy Branch Road on both the north and south lanes, and Dorchester Circle. Over- all, she said, the county received 137 calls about downed trees since midnight on Monday.
The Charles County Sheriff’s Office responded to 839 calls for service during the storm, over a hundred more than on a usual Tuesday, according to a police spokesperson. This included 245 checks on building and parking lots, 163 calls for trees or debris in the roadway, 84 patrol checks, 36 alarm calls, 31 motor vehicle accidents, 28 traffic light checks, 21 calls for downed power lines and more.
The county’s Depart- ment of Public Works Roads Division and the State Highway Administration continue to respond to downed tree incidents throughout the county. Both depart- ments have issued a release asking residents to use caution when driving as road crews work to remove trees.
The crews are mov- ing trees to the edges of roadways around the county where they will continue to clean them up. SMECO has additional resources coming in to help restore power, Dennison said. Currently, there are 16 service trucks with 28 line crews and 10 contractor crews working. But the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative is sending three crews for aid and the Choptank Electric Cooperative sent seven service trucks for assistance. There were four additional contractor crews from Delaware, he said, to provide more resources. SMECO is urging residents to call 1-888-440-3311 if they have any concerns about a downed line or tree on a power line. Any customers who experience power outages may also call SMECO at 1-877-7476326 to report any issues.