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About 112,000 BGE customers still without electricity

WASHINGTON — More than 129,000 customers were still without power Wednesday evening in the Mid-Atlantic region, days after Hurricane Irene finished pummeling the area.

Baltimore Gas and Electric was reporting the most outages in the region, with approximately 112,000 customers without power as of Wednesday evening. Most of those outages were in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore city. The sustained outages prompted a Maryland lawmaker to call for data about the utility’s employees, a review of its preparedness plans and a public hearing.

Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County, wrote a letter Tuesday to the Maryland Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities in the state. He said the utility is not “storm ready.” McDonough said that the utility has reduced the number of employees who specialize in maintaining and repairing the system.

“As a result, the consumers of this state, despite drastic increases in rates, are receiving drastic decreases in service,” McDonough wrote.

McDonough said his office got more than 50 telephone complaints on matters such as dangling live wires and customers’ inability to get utility officials to address their concerns.

A spokesman for the utility, however, said crews will actually be able to restore power faster than in 2003 when Hurricane Isabel blew through the region, causing power outages affecting a total of 790,000 customers. At the time, it took BGE eight days to restore everyone’s power.

This time around, about 750,000 customers have lost power, according to BGE spokesman Robert Gould. The utility has committed to restoring the vast majority of power by Friday with some outages continuing into Saturday, Gould said. That would mean that full restoration took seven days.

Gould said McDonough was “flat wrong” in saying the utility is not storm ready. He said the utility would be a willing participant in any hearing about the storm but said it was too soon to start assessing the utility’s performance.

“The time for review and assessment of our utility, or frankly any other utility, will be after we have restored every customer,” Gould said.

For his part, McDonough said comparing Hurricane Irene to Hurricane Isabel was like comparing apples to oranges because the severity of the damage was different.

Other utilities in the region also were still experiencing some outages. Pepco said about 4,800 customers lacked power in Washington and its Maryland suburbs as of Wednesday evening. It expected to restore service to all of its customers by Thursday evening. More than 4,300 of the outages were in the District of Columbia.

Meanwhile, the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative said it had nearly 11,000 customers out. Delmarva Power was reporting fewer than 1,000 customers without power. And Dominion Power said about 234 customers in northern Virginia don’t have electricity.