Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials admitted to Calvert County commissioners on Tuesday that the electric utility did not move fast enough to repair lines and restore service after Hurricane Floyd in September.
BGE officials pledged better future service than was available during that storm, which one BGE spokesman called "the most catastrophic event to hit our system in 40 years."
"We recognize that we did not meet public expectation," said Steve Wood, BGE's vice president of electrical transmission and distribution. "We know we have to do things differently."
Floyd wiped out power to nearly 4,000 Calvert homes, Wood said. The county was among the last to have power restored and Calvert residents received none of the dry ice distributed in Maryland, said Board President Linda L. Kelley (R-Owings).
BGE representatives offered few solid plans for change during their appearance at the commissioners' regular meeting on Tuesday, but said the company is looking into its electrical warning system, which alerts officials of problem areas, and also will gather information from other utilities. They also promised significant changes in power restoration policies--BGE now gives restoration priority according to public safety and the number of residents in a given area--and is looking into the possibility of recruiting workers from the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant to assist in restoration activities.
During Hurricane Floyd, 517 crews made up of employees from as far away as Ohio and Missouri worked to restore power to the nearly 500,000 BGE customers left without power across the state.
Most commissioners agreed that the electric company didn't move fast enough, leaving some residents without power for up to five days.
"We seem to be caught up in that prioritization schedule," Kelley said. "And when [Calvert residents] can't get through to you, guess who they call?"
At the suggestion of several commissioners, the officials agreed to look into better ways to handle the deluge of calls that come in during storms like Floyd. Many customers complained they couldn't reach the company to report outages. Smith said BGE receives about 10,000 calls on an average day, but during the storm that number swelled to 290,000.
"We are determined to extract every lesson learned from this storm," said Raymond Wenderlich, the manager of BGE's customer care department and a Calvert resident.
The BGE officials promised to have more support staff in place before the first snow storm.
At the end of September, calling BGE's response to Hurricane Floyd "unacceptably slow," Gov. Parris N. Glendening ordered Maryland's Public Service Commission to investigate how well BGE and other power companies in the state respond to natural disasters. Glendening also cited the Potomac Electric Power Co.'s performance during last winter's ice storm in the Washington suburbs, when service to thousands of homes was interrupted.