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August 30, 2011

Two-thirds of BGE's Irene outages repaired

I just took a look at the latest numbers from BGE on how the restoration of electric service is going. Looks like their own crews, contractors and mutual-aid crews from Midwest and Pa. utilities have restored service to about two-thirds of all the customers who lost power during Irene.

The utility reports on its website (at about 10:20 a.m.) that of the 743,000 outages they faced from the storm, about Power outages Baltimore500,000 have been repaired. Some 243,000 customers were still waiting for their lights to come back on.

Hardest-hit were Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. In Baltimore County, 234,278 customers lost their power at some point during the storm. That's 63 percent of the total that BGE serves there. In Anne Arundel, 176,045 customers lost their lights. That is 74 percent of the total. I'm not sure if the total double-counts those who lost their power more than once. But it gives you a sense of the scale of the damage. 

Of course, if it's your power that's still out, that's still 100 percent of the outages that remain to be cleared up, and you're still looking for the first bucket truck to show up. Keep in mind that it only makes sense for the utility to first tackle the line breaks that affect the most customers. If your lights are out because a tree fell in your back yard, and your neighbors were unaffected, you will be waiting at the end of the line. That's only fair. Inconvenient to say the least. But fair.

The 743,000 total is close to 50 percent more outages than the company planned for, and equal to 58 percent of the entire system of 1.3 million customers. Company officials said before Irene struck that they were planning for up to 500,000 outages in the BGE service area, but were prepared to expand the response if needed. Turns out it was needed.

(SUN PHOTO: Jeffrey F. Bill)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:21 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Hurricanes


I live in North Linthicum and yesterday's recording from BGE said I could expect power by 3 p.m. Thursday. I called them today and they said 10:00 p.m. Friday. Not exactly what I wanted to here. I won't mind too much as long as we don't get any rain b4 the power gets going as I don't have a generator for my sump pump.

FR REPLIES: No rain in the forecast until a 30 pct chance on Sunday.

I wonder if all of the status updates have been changed to Friday evening. Until last night, the BGE recording indicated that I could expect power to be restored by 10:30 tonight. Now it says by Friday night at 11:30.

FR: Don't you think that the big question is why BGE's planning was so off that they missed the actual outages by 50 percent? In the wake of Isabel in 2003 - and the supposed "lessons learned" - and the forecasts for Irene, how is it that BGE so underestimated the damage to its customers that this storm would wreak?

FR REPLIES: You can slam BGE for its performance. But keep in mind that they had to make their estimates on Monday or Tuesday - five days before landfall - in order to line up their resources. I would guess that it's awfully difficult to guess how many trees will fall on how many wires while the storm is still five days away over the open ocean.

I live in Shady Side, MD
Lost power in the storm when I called they said it would be back on 8/29 at 11pm. It came on 8/30 at 2:30am not bad. It just went off again at 8/30 1:00pm. When I call now they say it will be back on by Friday 9/2. What's up with that

FR REPLIES: Here's BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy on why Estimated Time to Repair (ETR) may get pushed back: "When a customer calls in and gives us information about their outage, that info goes into our Outage Management System (OMS) which finds other jobs in the system which share a common device (s). Once OMS identifies the common device (s), it generates an ETR based on the equipment involved. Then OMS creates a work order unique to that outage. Once on the scene of a job, there may be other issues (extensive tree debris) that must be addressed before they can actually begin fixing or replacing the equipment. Also, there are still many roads blocked due to fallen trees so our crews are being diverted to alternate routes which is extending their arrival times. All of this could result in a longer ETR than what the customer was originally told. Hope this helps."

Very frustrating in that they KEEP changing the ETR. It is in fact useless, when the time they keep quoting me comes and goes. This has happened twice. I realize storms are hard to predict, but their job (for which they are paid!) is to provide power and restore it. I've called many times about the trees in my neighborhood being in the wires and their response is: "Unless a line is down or sparking we cannot do anything about it." Seems a bit backwards. Bottom line is they were not prepared for this storm.

BGE needs to reinvest money in their grid. Did you know our friends on the other side of the Mason Dixon line have electric meters that automatically report outages and automatically transmit usage information? They've even been putting lines underground in some places. The PSC really needs to crack down on BGE to improve the reliability of electricity in Maryland. BGE prepared as best they could for this storm. What they didn't do was take proactive measures months ago.

Put the lines underground and cut down some trees. Power outages can be prevented. A little prevention goes a long way.

Frank, maybe in raw numbers; but Harford County shows 87000 outages in 100,000 customers, for an 87% outage rate. That's pretty hard hit. As of Monday night, we still had major intersections without traffic lights. While we must remember the scale of the incident, BG&E has been less than professional with their ability to estimate repair times. While I know it is more expensive to fix underground breaks, I would suggest that buried feeder circuits would go a long way to minimize the problems we have faced this week.
P.S. Our power is still out, to a community with over 200 homes. How far down the list we must be!

It doesn't surprise me that BGE can't give accurate times for power restoration.

During a 'normal' power disruption, if you call it in, BGE's recording will give you an estimate of restoration 'in about 3 hours'. Call back 1-1/2 hours later, and BGE will give you an estimate of restoration 'in about 3 hours'.

After enduring their male bovine droppings enough times, I called the Maryland PSC to complain.

I see from the above accounts, though, that the philosophy of BGE has not changed any - give the customer some time period in the future, and they'll forget to call back if/when power is not restored by them.

I have tried for months to get BGE to trim branches along their lines. First they refused to even talk to me. After a complaint to the Publc Service Commission they decided they would talk to me after all. They said I "only" had 6 significant power outages in the last year (talk about low expectations!). Since then I have had 2 more. They told me the Public Service Commission allows them to trim only every 4 years and they would not trim a day earlier than the minimal requirement - no matter what. So... when I got the pre-storm BGE robo-call telling me to have low expectations for BGE performance but that they are doing everything they can, all I can say is that it was an annoying lie.

PEPCO was forced by an irate public through elective officials and the Public Service Commission to trim trees - and it really paid off. BGE just doesn't care. They continue to lie to us about when our power will be back on. It is astounding that major intersections still do not have power to traffic lights. My neighbor's house in the NC outer banks never lost electricity, but his house here did and it's still out.

It's time for the media to stop accepting BGE's lame propaganda and start doing some investigative reporting. It's time for us to hold our elective officials responsible. (Which of them get campaign donations from BGE?) It's time for the Public Service Commission to work for the public to force BGE kicking and screaming into more aggressive tree trimming and general prevention. Maybe the CEO's exorbitant salary should be tied to the company's outage statistics: fewer outages, repair faster, or lose a few million dollars of pocket money.

BGE's performance has been dismal, yet all we hear from them is propaganda, lies, and excuses. And there is no reason to believe the numbers that BGE reports on their outage web page. In fact, there is reason to believe they are playing games with them. There is no reason to believe anything BGE says.

Seems they keep giving different numbers of outages, etc. Still have critical need patients/centers without power - in the meantime I believe they are downtown getting ready for the Indy Race this week - priority wrong?

BGE has a balancing act with tree removal. If they clear-cut (e.g. Cromwell Bridge Road), they get complaints. If trees take out a line, they get complaints.

They also don't have *good* access to a lot of the off-street lines in older neighborhoods---they might have the right to the access, but that doesn't mean they can get equipment in there.

That said, why don't they modify the "OMS" output to provide a more reasonable estimate---maybe after someone has inspected the problem? Or have workers trained to use a chainsaw? We saw plenty of BGE employees standing around next to trees the day after.

I've lived in a neieghborhood in Deale, southern AA Co. for over 20 years. Going on the 5th day wihtout power. But, this is nothing new for us, everyone in our neighborhood of about 50 houses has a generator - we have wells for water - and we're always one of the last to get restored. Usually when they get below 10,000. This is about the 8th time over the years that we've gone 5 days or more without it for various reasons, not just storms. BG&E even did a survey for us and agreed tha we experience above average outqages and durations, but nothing changed. It gets frustrating when other neighborhoods a mile or two away were restored days ago. It would seem more logical for BG&E's sytem to coordinate geographically as well as by device. They might spend a lot less time on the road. We're wondering if we should petiton the PSC to require a reduced rate from BG&E for our neighborhood. After all, why should we pay the same for inferior service as our neighbors pay for much better service?

FR: On the other hand, you're not paying for power you're not receiving.

Mr. Roylance, what would be fair is if the areas first out of power were first repaired, in order. In that way, because our neighborhood power went out on SATURDAY, we would have been repaired within, perhaps, 2-3 days. As it is, we are still without power. Now, that would be FAIR. And you write as if you are a PR person for BGE. I've sent written complaints to the PSC, the Governor's Office, and the People's Counsel. Bottom line is BGE is not willing to hire enough technicians to handle the damage from the storm. Granted, no one knew how extensive the damage was going to be. However, after Sunday, BGE knew. They are the only game in town, a monopoly, so there is nowhere else for my neighbors and I to go for electricity. Seven days means all groceries spoiled; we've run out of hot water; no telephone service; no cooking (electric stove). So please stop defending a corporation that makes millions in profit each year. Mrs. Jo-Ann Fagan

BigDragon- You talk abouty your friends on the other side Mason Dixon line have electric meters that automatically report outages and automatically transmit usage information. Well BGE has been trying to implement smart meters for years but the PSC has prevented them from doing so because they say BGE can't prove that it saves customer's money. I think smart meter implementation has been pushed back to 2015 because of this. Also you talk about moving lines underground. Do you know how much that would raise our bills? It would add another $100 per month. I rather pay $100 less per month and deal with the rare hurricane that takes out my power a few days once every 7 years.

It is clear to me that you can't get a straight answer from BGE. I called over seven times and got just a many excuses. The last time I called was on Thursday and the first time I was told there was no work order yet for my area, an hour later called and was told that I was under a "construction" work order and it might be several days. Several hours later one truck drove into my neighborhood and had us back on line in thirty minutes. I have more than 30 accounts on the eastern shore who bore the brunt of the storm who had power within 24 hours, here in Carroll County more than hundreds of miles away, we were out for 5 days.

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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