‘Massive’ damage to its equipment slows BGE’s efforts

Maryland’s largest utility supplier, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., said Sunday that Hurricane Irene inflicted “massive” damage to the company’s power lines, transformers and other parts of its electrical infrastructure.

“The kind of damage our crews continue to encounter is massive,” said A. Christopher Burton, a BGE senior vice president. “In some cases, our crews are reporting unprecedented damage and destruction.”

The company said Sunday night that power has been restored to 100 percent of the 750,00 customers affected by Irene, which hit the region on the morning of Aug. 31

“These last repairs [were] very similar in size and scope to building a new electric-delivery system from the ground up,” company spokeswoman Linda Foy said. “We’ve literally replaced hundred of utility polls, it could now be a thousand.”

Ms. Foy said the damage was widespread across BGE’s central Maryland territory, though most of the outages were in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties. The company has roughly 1.2 million electric customers.

Ms. Foy cited one situation in which power could not be restore until two cranes were deployed to remove a large tree that had fallen and heavily damaged equipment.

Power essentially has been restored across the region, include people in Maryland and the District with Pepco, in Southern Maryland with the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and in Northern Virginia with Dominion Virginia Power.

However, about 70,000 customers along the East Coast remain without service.

The majority are in Connecticut, which had 30,000 outages Sunday, and in Virginia, where nearly 15,000, largely in the Richmond area, were still without power. Roughly 10,000 outages remained in New York, mostly on Long Island.

More than 9 million customers lost power during the storm. It has been restored in Massachusetts, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Fewer than 1,000 outages remain in Rhode Island.

Just a handful of customers were still without power in Vermont, where entire towns were isolated by flooding. A utility spokeswoman said the outages remain where washed-out roads make it impossible to get crews in to help.

BGE has attempted to remind customers that the company restored power faster that in 2003 when Tropical Storm Isabel impacted a similar number.

The company, which called Irene one of the most damaging storms in company history, had as many as 5,000 workers trying to restore power, including linemen for 18 states, some from as far away as Michigan and Texas.

Still, the state’s Public Service Commission is expected to hold post-storm hearings to evaluate the performance of utility companies across the state, as it has routinely after major weather events.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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