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In The Dark, Russett Searches for Answers

The community awaits return of power after Hurricane Irene.

When the power went out in Russett on Sunday as Hurricane Irene swept through the region, many in community assumed it would only be a matter of hours before it was restored.

But Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then Thursday came and went with no lights, no refrigerator, no washer or air conditioner for some residents.

After five days, residents in Russett say they want answers from Baltimore Gas and Electric as to why their community of more than 3,700 homes is still plagued by power outages. 

, a 610-acre housing development just east of the City of Laurel, was built in the early 1990s. Utility lines serving the community are all underground and the community is mostly free of the large older trees that brought down power lines that caused outages in most communities after Irene.

After being told by BG&E several times this week that power would be restored, residents said they are scratching their heads at the tangled maze of outages in the neighborhood. About 40 percent of the community is without power, said , the community's association president.

Homes in some parts of the neighborhood have power, while others just 20 feet away are still in the dark.

"I've never seen anything like this before," said Reyburn. "It's like a puzzle with missing jigsaw pieces. You have [homes] all over Russett that don't have power."

Reyburn said he's had trouble getting specific information from BG&E and fears Russett has slipped through the cracks. Residents with no power, who have also lost Internet, may not be able to report power outages to the company.

Russett sustained little damage during Irene with only small landscaping trees knocked down, Reyburn said. 

"All you hear is downed power lines or trees--that's not our problem over here," he said. "I'm concerned there is a systemic problem happening."

Before Irene struck, BG&E that as many as 500,000 customers in the state could loose power. As of Thursday, the company said 60,000 customers remain without power, down from 700,000 after the storm.

Linda Foy, a spokeswoman for BG&E, said that the company has relied on residents to inform it of power outages but said it's unlikely that Russett skipped officials' notice.

"That's very frustrating," she said. "We understand that for customers. There has been some issues with estimated times [for power to return]."

Foy said power lines can travel through various communities and homes in a given area and may not all feed into the same power source, which, she said, would explain half the community being without power. 

Foy said BG&E expects to have the majority of power restored by Saturday with scattered isolated outages lasting until Sunday.

Still, residents said they've become skeptical of the company's estimates--the latest prediction was that power would return Thursday evening.

Rob Newman lives in Russett with his wife and infant daughter and has learned to live without electricity. Cold showers and cold pizza have become the norm.

"Normal dinner routines have been thrown out the window," he said. He said without power he and his wife are up before sunrise and usually in bed by dark.

"I'm extremely disappointed," he said.

Colin Sandy, a Russett townhome owner, said his wife returned home from major surgery this week. He had hoped she would turn to a comfortable home with electricity.

“It has been frustrating with the lack of information from BG&E and the deadlines that don’t materialize,” he said. “We feel like we’re getting the [Pepco] treatment from BG&E.” 

Fred Mertz September 04, 2011 at 04:24 PM
FEMA: http://www.aacounty.org/OEM/resources/AACO%20PNP%20Press%20Release.pdf BGE program: http://ww2.gazette.net/stories/08122010/prinnew171612_32540.php : )
Bewildered September 04, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Thanks but don't see anything russett (homeowner assoc) could apply for. Nothing here for residents. Only for non-profit businesses and something about replacing trees that BGE cut down. Keep looking and let all know. What one residential community gets is afforded to other communities.
Fred Mertz September 05, 2011 at 04:31 PM
http://www.bge.com/Search/Pages/DefaultResults.aspx?k=emergency%20power%20generation People can bank KW hours with BGE if they hook up their own systems and apply for it. Applies to other entities that can generate power other than for emergency back only. http://www.bge.com/myaccount/energysupplyoptions/customergenerated/Pages/default.aspx
brad September 06, 2011 at 09:42 PM
Not all of Russett was with out power. I live in the townhomes off Redwing and Oxbow and was fine.
Fred Mertz September 07, 2011 at 01:49 AM
The article didn't say that all were without power. It points out it was about 40% of the homes were without power.

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