- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

PORT REPUBLIC, Md. — Cleo Parker has spent the four days since Hurricane Irene blew by without electricity and doesn’t expect to get power restored for at least another week or two.

So each day, she drives a few miles from her small home in rural Calvert County to the nearest gas station to buy ice and gas for her generator, traveling a winding, two-lane road littered with downed cables and a frightening array of broken and toppled trees.

Some of the trees lean precariously above the road like archways while others sit on power lines, stretching them to the ground like drawn slingshots.

“I’ve seen some storms, but this is the worst one I’ve ever been through,” said Miss Parker, 56, adding that fallen trees left small holes in her roof and partially ripped down her gutters. “But that’s nothing compared to others.”

While Irene delivered a glancing blow to much of the state causing power outages and only occasional destruction — it devastated Southern Maryland, where an inordinate number of people along the Chesapeake Bay’s western shore have homes that were destroyed or heavily damaged.

Maryland Gov, Martin O'Malley listens Tuesday to Mike and Beth Adams describe the damage to their home from Hurricane Irene along Whiskey Creek Lane in Hollywood, Md. "One of the things that you have to see to believe is the sheer volume of big, heavy trees that have been knocked down," Mr. O'Malley said. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
Maryland Gov, Martin O’Malley listens Tuesday to Mike and Beth Adams describe ... more >

Gov. Martin O'Malley and other state officials got their first look at the damage Tuesday, touring Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties to check on response efforts.

“It’s a miracle, I think, that more people weren’t injured,” Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, said in Prince Frederick. “One of the things that you have to see to believe is the sheer volume of big, heavy trees that have been knocked down.”

In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell said cooperation between the state and federal government during Irene could not have gone more smoothly.

Mr. McDonnell, flanked by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Agriculture Todd Vilsack, said he participated in conference calls with President Obama on Friday and Saturday and had been in touch with Ms. Napolitano multiple times during the process.

“We planned for the worst, but we came out a little better than expected,” he said.

Dominion Virginia Power reported Tuesday that 75 percent of the customers who lost power during the storm would have it restored by Wednesday night and that power was restored Tuesday night to all of Northern Virginia.

Maryland officials said utility companies have restored power to nearly 70 percent of the 822,000 households and businesses that lost electricity during the storm, but crews have had difficulty reaching some of the state’s most affected areas.

The Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative said it had restored power to about 72 percent of the 86,000 customers who lost power.

However, state House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican, said the extreme damage and inaccessibility of many homes in wooded areas have combined to “overwhelm” emergency workers and utility crews.

“You just can’t imagine it until you see it up close,” said Mr. O’Donnell, who also toured the region. “This has basically knocked down an entire transmission and distribution system here in Southern Maryland.”

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