Nearly 24,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers remained without power Tuesday evening, a day after severe thunderstorms and strong winds roared through the region, knocking down trees and utility poles and causing a number of road closures.
As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, BGE was reporting 10,755 affected customers in Carroll County, as well as 9,325 in Baltimore County, 1,613 in Baltimore City, 1,185 in Harford County, 536 in Howard County and 387 in Anne Arundel County.
BGE said it anticipated having power restored to 80% of those customers by 11 p.m.
The Maryland State Police said a section of Maryland Route 140 in Westminster, where storms knocked about 20 to 30 utility poles on the busy roadway, was still closed from Market Street to Gorsuch Road as of 7:30 p.m. The state has established detours for motorists who pass through the area.
Dorothy De los Rios, owner of Roberto’s Pizza, said a customer had just placed an order Monday night when the utility poles in front of her shop fell like dominoes. The pole directly in front of her restaurant exploded, she said.
She “didn’t know what was gonna happen,” she said, because she didn’t know if things could get worse.
Dozens of people were trapped in their vehicles as BGE crews worked to de-energize the power lines.
Just after 11:30 p.m. Monday, state police said, 33 adults and 14 children had been safely removed from the area.
Jeffrey Campbell told WJZ that he spent five tense hours inside his SUV after he and other motorists became trapped under the power lines.
“I was like, I’m not touching that wire,” Campbell said. “It was just good to have my feet on solid ground. it was just one of those epic moments, you could hear the symphony orchestra going off in the background.”
Gov. Wes Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller visited Westminster on Tuesday morning to thank first responders.
“There were people who were stuck and stranded in cars who were able to sleep in their own beds last night,” Moore said.
No serious injuries were reported, something Moore called “both a combination of God’s grace, and a combination of a lot of hard work. ... This storm was real.”
At various points during the storm, there were a little over 100 road closures in Carroll County as a result of the damage, according to a list compiled by the county government. While more than half were subsequently reopened, dozens of others remained closed as of 3 p.m., according to the Carroll County Bureau of Roads Operations.
Phone lines at the Maryland State Police’s Westminster Barrack were still down Tuesday. Residents calling state police about an emergency should dial (443) 789-7278 or otherwise use 911.
Callers with nonemergencies should use a temporary phone line, (410) 653-4284. Police said they working to return keys to motorists whose vehicles were stranded by the storm.
Moore and Miller surveyed storm damage and received an update from first responders during their visit to Westminster.
“We are continuing to monitor all the effects from the storm all across the state,” the governor said, “and we are working around the clock to make sure that our communities are getting everything they need and everything they deserve.”
Miller described the aftermath of the storm as some of “the worst electrical damage our state has seen in years.” She commended the efforts of local authorities, first responders and the staff of Winters Mill High School, which served as a temporary shelter, and reassured residents affected by the storm.
“While we know that the cleanup caused by this disaster is far from over,” Miller said, “and efforts will continue to restore power, know that the Moore-Miller administration has your back and we are ready to support you in every way.”
Damage in Baltimore County was relatively minor, said Sean Naron, communications director for the county executive’s office.
“Thankfully we were spared the worst,” Naron said, characterizing the damage as that of a “typical storm” rather than a severe one.
Downed trees, some flooding of minor roads and power outages were the issues he cited. Naron said two-thirds of power outages had been restored by 10:54 a.m., and he expected the rest to be restored by Tuesday evening.
In Harford County, a couple in their 70s had to be rescued after storms sent a massive tree crashing into their home in White Hall.
“They probably would’ve been killed,” Todd Sexton, the couple’s son, told WJZ. “Like, I said, someone was looking out for them and I’m glad they did.”
Crews across the eastern United States were working Tuesday to clear downed trees and power lines and restore electricity following severe storms that killed at least two people, cut power to hundreds of thousands, and forced thousands of flight delays and cancellations.
Nick Alexopulos, a BGE spokesperson, called the destruction in Carroll County “catastrophic.”
“This is damage that if you worked in electric distribution at BGE for your entire career, you may see it once,” Alexopulos said at a news conference Monday night.
BGE said in a noon Tuesday update that power had been restored for 83,741 customers, accounting for 80% of the outages from the peak of the storm.
Crews were still working to remove the downed wires and poles from Route 140, and the company said it was still determining a timeline for making repairs and restoring power.
BGE opened a mobile operations command center at TownMall of Westminster to answer residents’ questions through 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Additionally, the Maryland Insurance Administration set up a virtual disaster center to answer questions about insurance claims.
In Westminster, De los Rios had to wind her car through backroads on Tuesday morning to reach the pizza shop she’s owned for 23 years. The 41-year-old came back to save whatever food she could from the refrigerator that she wasn’t able to take with her last night.
”I hope everybody’s safe,” she said, acknowledging the abandoned cars trapped by downed poles. “Hope all those people are fine.”
Westminster resident Emil Shutt lives about five minutes from Route 140. He pulled up to a bank parking lot close to the road to survey the stretch of downed utility lines.
Besides wondering when he and his family could expect to get power back, he asked aloud, “How does something like this happen?”
Shutt, 46, was at work as his wife and two children, ages 9 and 11, huddled in the basement, listening to the wind and the rain, he said.
“Just trying to make sure nothing bad happened. And they made it through it,” he said as his eyes watered.
He drove off in search of coffee but doubted anything would be open.
Retirees Joann and Gil Simon live in Hampstead, about nine miles away from where the storm left its mark.
Joann left her canasta game at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on Poole Road in Westminster on Monday around 4:30 p.m.
”The skies were starting to get dark,” she said. “And we decided that it was time to go home.”
Her route home crossed the road now littered with wooden utility poles. She made it home just in time to witness the wind toss her outdoor furniture across the length of her deck.
”The rain was like a torrential downpour,” she said.
On Tuesday, the couple were headed to check on a homebound friend and stopped to take in the destruction.
”I just can’t imagine how all of these poles could go down all at the same time,” she said.
The Associated Press and WJZ contributed to this report.