- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

Jim Eyer of Bowie thought he was one of the lucky ones Wednesday afternoon.

His lights came on about 20 hours after his home lost power during Tuesday night’s thunderstorm, and his air conditioner kicked in just in time to cool his house from the 90-degree temperatures outdoors.

But as the 71-year-old retired military officer sat down to watch a track-and-field meet on television two hours later, the screen went dark and the air conditioner stopped humming. It was as if Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) crews had never gone to his Whitehall neighborhood off Laurel-Bowie Road.

“I didn’t have television when I was a kid,” Mr. Eyer said yesterday afternoon as he stood outside his house on Winding Lane. “I didn’t have a computer when I was a kid. I can get by. What bothers me is the [lost] food, and it’s hot.”

Mr. Eyer was among hundreds of Bowie residents who yesterday tried to cope with the third day of no air conditioning, television or hot water. They were among tens of thousands of residents throughout the D.C. area who remained without power last night. Utility companies have said efforts to restore power could last until this afternoon.

Mr. Eyer, who spent most of his day cleaning up dozens of tree branches scattered on his lawn, said he and his wife lost some meat they had stored in the freezer. But the couple managed to eat and relax at their daughter’s home nearby.

However, things are getting tough for Mr. Eyer’s neighbor, Robert Lerner, who runs a business out of his home. The computers he uses for his business don’t work, and there’s a good chance he will lose money by missing deadlines.

“Everybody can ride through an outage of 24 hours,” said Mr. Lerner, 60, director of software engineering for a software-development company. “But when it’s 72 hours, you’re feeling the tension.”

Mr. Lerner said he had called BGE several times since Tuesday, but couldn’t get a definitive answer on when crews would return to his neighborhood to restore electricity. BGE supplies most of the power to Baltimore, as well as to Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and parts of Prince George’s counties.

“It’s been a real pain,” Mr. Lerner said. “And what I don’t quite understand is, it seems to me we were being treated well, but then, after it went out again, it seemed like this area was in back of the line.”

A few minutes away in the Belair neighborhood, Herbert Winston, 59, spent his afternoon waiting for insurance agents to assess the damage a tree caused when it fell on the front of his home. It dragged down the gutter and wrecked a portion of his roof.

Mr. Winston, who has been without power since Tuesday night, estimated the damage at $20,000.

“I guess the worst part is no lights at night and no air conditioning,” said Mr. Winston, a retired Navy officer.

Still, he called the damage a “minor inconvenience.” He said a few of his neighbors have given him dry ice to protect perishable goods and ordered him pizza during the past two days. The only thing he said he missed was watching Western movies on television.

He said a BGE employee told him about 1:30 p.m. that power should be restored to his neighborhood within 24 hours. For Mr. Winston, that meant another night of missed movies and more pizza.

Meanwhile, Karen Waid and her husband, Rich, who live on Cherrywood Lane in the Chapel Forge neighborhood, stayed busy by cleaning up trees that fell in their yard. Like Mr. Lerner, the Waids work from their home. They process billing for small-business distributors.

Mrs. Waid said she and her husband are four days behind on their work. But she said it could have been worse. “Our business is affected somewhat,” she said. “But we purchased a backup generator awhile back for situations like this.”

Tarron Lively contributed to this report.

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