Power outages continue to disrupt mid-Atlantic

By Ben Nuckols

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Aug. 29 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

An uprooted tree crashed through a house in Lusby, Md. after Hurricane Irene Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. Hurricane Irene left nearly a million people without power in the Mid-Atlantic region Sunday, filling low-lying roads with water and bringing trees down on power lines, streets and rail tracks.

Steve Ruark, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — For many in the Mid-Atlantic region, Hurricane Irene caused only minor inconveniences. But hundreds of thousands of others remained without power Monday, including some who could wait days for their electricity to return. And for a few, the storm brought tragedy.

In northern Delaware, authorities were searching for two men whose last known communication was a text message indicating they were running outside during the hurricane.

Utilities across the region reported that half a million people remained without power, with outages spread across northern Virginia, central and southern Maryland, Delaware and the Delmarva Peninsula. Baltimore Gas & Electric customers in Baltimore and surrounding counties were the hardest hit, with about 300,000 outages, and BGE warned customers that some could expect to remain in the dark until Saturday.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said he won't be happy until electricity is fully restored to all of the 472,000 homes and businesses statewide that lacked power at midday Monday, about 36 hours after the peak of the hurricane.

"I think none of us are satisfied and won't be satisfied until everybody gets turned back on," O'Malley said during a briefing at the state's emergency operations center in Reisterstown, north of Baltimore. "I can tell you that there are crews who are working around the clock, and we're going to stay on this until everyone is restored."

Police in New Castle County, Del., organized a search team to look for Christopher Valentine of Hockessin, Del., and Jean Baptista of Clark, N.J. Police said the two men, both 25, left a residence on foot just before midnight Saturday, as the heart of the storm was over Delaware. They texted a friend shortly after midnight from a location near Hoopes Reservoir, several miles east of Hockessin, indicating that they were running through the hurricane.

Valentine's mother reported him missing Sunday afternoon. Nationwide, the death toll from the storm stood at 35, including an elderly woman in Queen Anne's County, Md., and 15-year-old Katherine Morales Cruz of Manassas Park, Va., who died in an automobile accident in North Carolina.

BGE said in a statement that its focus Monday was on ensuring public safety, which would include getting traffic lights back in operation, and restoring power to critical customers such as 911 centers, hospitals and water treatment plants.

Linda Foy, a spokeswoman for the utility, said BGE has gotten reports of 5,000 downed wires and installed 400 new utility poles.

Officials with Pepco, the utility serving the District of Columbia and its suburbs as well as parts of Delaware, said they expected to have all power fully restored by 6 p.m. Thursday. Safety concerns, especially involving downed power lines, required crews to work at a deliberate pace, Pepco Holdings Inc. Chairman Joe Rigby said at a news conference in Salisbury, Md.

Just outside Washington, in Takoma Park, Md., the traffic lights were dark as soon as drivers crossed into Maryland, and power lines hanging low enough to touch the tops of cars were marked off by yellow caution tape.

Ivan Tokic, 55, a contractor, said he has been grilling food from his refrigerator, rather than throwing it away, and has invited friends and family over to eat.

"I just cooked everything up," he said. "Now the refrigerator is nice and empty."

Tokic has also been using a $700 gas generator to power much of his house and a neighbor's home.

Diana Vidutis got an estimate Monday that power would not be restored to her Takoma Park home until Thursday. But she's not waiting around. On Monday afternoon, she was preparing to salvage what was left of a planned vacation in Bethany Beach, Del.

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