- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

Students in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties today will return to class at almost all of the 50 schools that were closed the past two days because of storm-induced power outages.

Utility crews have been working nonstop to restore power to more than 90,000 out of the estimated 245,000 customers who remained without lights and air conditioning since Tuesday night.

Montgomery County, which was forced to shut 33 schools Wednesday, will reopen eight schools today. As of last night, 12 schools still had no electricity. The county had to keep 20 schools closed yesterday.

“We’re slowly but surely getting more schools off the closed list as the day progresses,” said Brian Porter, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Public Schools.

Prince George’s County, which shut down 10 schools Wednesday, will reopen all of them today. Officials kept three schools closed yesterday.

Neither of the two school systems have decided how they will make up the lost class time. School officials said they may be counted among the four snow days that each county allows each year, or they could be made up during regular classes.

Officials in Anne Arundel County, which was hit hardest by the storms, said they will reopen two of their schools today.

Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), which supplies power to the city of Baltimore and to Howard, Baltimore, Anne Arundel and northern Prince George’s counties, expected to reconnect the estimated 9,500 outages that remained last night. About 7,200 Anne Arundel County customers remained without power last night.

“We had a priority to restore power to the schools,” BGE spokeswoman Elleen Kane said.

In all, 800 BGE repairmen reconnected 133,000 customers over the past two days, including nearly 16,000 who lost power again in Wednesday’s storm.

More than 40 tree-trimming crews cleared away fallen trees and limbs to help the 250 Pepco crews repair downed power lines, transformers and utility poles.

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, 21,300 Montgomery County customers, 8,000 Prince George’s County residents and 3,000 people in the District did not have electricity, according to Pepco and BGE officials.

Dominion Virginia Power, which supplies electricity to most of Northern Virginia, had 381 customers without power last night.

The outages led officials in Montgomery County to close Dennis Avenue Health Center in Wheaton yesterday, and keep Long Branch Library in Silver Spring closed for another day.

Also, six out of the 100 intersections in the county remained without power yesterday morning. Most of them were located in the Wheaton area and along or near Georgia Avenue.

As crews worked to remove tangled trees and fix downed power lines yesterday, they also distributed dry ice to area residents for the second day to help keep food and other perishable items from spoiling.

BGE sent out 177,000 pounds of dry ice to help its customers. Pepco passed out 180,000 pounds, or 90 tons, at four locations in the District, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Meanwhile, officials with the Prince George’s County Health Department sent workers to Landover Mall and Free State Mall in Bowie to warn residents that food should be thrown away if refrigerator or freezer temperatures rose above 40 degrees.

Some public safety officials also warned residents about using gas-powered generators to get through the outage. If not ventilated properly, generators can poison humans with odorless carbon monoxide, officials said.

“Those generators should be outside,” said Capt. Chauncey Bowers, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire and Rescue Department.

Meanwhile, in the District, some residents and a D.C. Council member criticized Pepco for taking too long to restore power.

Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he suspected that Pepco had underestimated how long it would take to restore electricity. Other residents pointed out that it was taking longer for Pepco to restore power than it had taken New York City after the massive blackout that hit the Northeast earlier this month.

Pepco officials said the complaints were unfair. Spokesman Robert Dobkin said the company began assembling repair crews hours before Tuesday night’s storm. He said the Northeast blackout was caused by an equipment failure, but the local thunderstorms required repair crews to clear away debris and repair fallen power lines, utility poles and transformers.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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