Ice, winds cause mas­sive power out­ages

Thou­sands were without elec­tric­ity due to brush with win­ter storm Stella

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

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.

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