O’Malley: ‘We were spared the worst’

In a news conference Tuesday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) confirmed what most Washington area residents have seen anecdotally.

“We were spared the worst,” O’Malley said from the state’s emergency operations center. “It’s clear we were fortunate to be on the weaker side of the storm.”

Flooding in Maryland will remain a concern “for days” O’Malley said, and most imminently, in the Chesapeake Bay over the next two high-tide cycles. Heavy, wet snow is also paralyzing travel in Western Maryland.

But statewide, Maryland has fewer than a third of the number of residents without power than it did in the immediate aftermath of the June derecho. And winds have died down, allowing line crews throughout the Baltimore-Washington area to begin the work of making repairs.

“We thought they would have to shelter in place — those heavy winds left much faster than anyone forecasted, so utility crews have been out there working on restorations since dawn,” O’Malley said. He added that “a big chunk” of the restorations appeared likely to be completed before dark.

And of Washington area residents’ good fortune at still having the lights on? “I’m shocked,” O’Malley said. “I’d be curious to know if in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties — in the Pepco service area — if the winds were as high as predicted. … Did they not get the winds? Or was that the preventative tree-trimming and maintenance?”

Maryland officials also reported that as of late morning, BG&E had been able to restore power to the Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant in Howard County. The plant lost electricity for 12 hours, forcing it to discharge approximately 24 million gallons of wastewater into the Chesapeake Bay.

Howard County officials said the discharge was heavily diluted — about 90 percent was storm runoff, they said, and 10 percent sewage.

Hundreds of residents in the extreme corners of the state will continue to feel the effects of Sandy for days and perhaps weeks.

Nearly 100 people were believed to have spent the night in homes inundated with water in Crisfield, Maryland’s southernmost town. The Eastern Shore community that bills itself as “the crab capital of the world” was hit with a storm surge of three to five feet. Some residents of a public housing complex had four feet or more of standing water in their homes overnight. O’Malley said many sheltered on the second floor. The Maryland National Guard is going door to door, offering rides to a Somerset County shelter.

A similar door-to-door effort is under way in a section of Havre de Grace where homes were deluged, O’Malley said.

The governor said early voting would resume Wednesday across the state. To make up for the two days that were lost because of the storm, polling places will open early, stay open late, and remain open an extra day.

From Wednesday through Friday, Maryland polling places will open at 8 a.m. and stay open for 13 hours. Anyone in line as of 9 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese noted that under the state’s emergency declaration, O’Malley retains the power to extend voting hours on Election Day if needed.

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.
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