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Calmer winds aiding utility restoration after Sandy; mass transit resuming

The morning after superstorm Sandy spared much of Maryland its worst, some local systems resumed operations and surged forward with recovery efforts, but other government agencies and businesses were still in the dark.

“As you all know, we were very, very fortunate to be on the kinder end of this very violent storm,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a news briefing Tuesday.

superstorm sandy power lines

A downed tree is held off the ground by a power line Tuesday at Providence and Hart roads in Baltimore County. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

About 308,770 Maryland customers were without power as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, with Garrett County suffering the most extensive outages, O’Malley said. But utility companies were able to send crews out at dawn to begin repairs, which was quicker than expected, because winds died down earlier than predicted, O’Malley said.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said in a news release that it had restored power to more than 133,000 customers as of 2 p.m. The utility also said it had more than 4,500 workers engaged in the restoration effort, including nearly 1,900 from out of state.

The Maryland Transit Administration resumed limited service by noon Tuesday, running some core bus routes, the Metro subway and mobility transit service. Officials said they determined it was safe to resume those services because the storm did not cause significant damage to the transit system.

The light rail, MARC trains and commuter bus lines remained closed, however, as did the Charm City Circulator in Baltimore. Light rail and Circulator services, at least, were scheduled to resume Wednesday. In Washington, the Metro resumed service at 2 p.m. Tuesday after being shut down Monday for the first time since 2003 during Tropical Storm Isabel.

Amtrak also kept its operations halted Tuesday, but the Maryland Port Administration announced it would resume some activity at the Port of Baltimore’s public terminals.

All flights leaving from and arriving at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport were canceled after 9 a.m. Monday, and most were canceled Tuesday, with the exception of a small number, primarily with Delta Airlines and United Airlines, said Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for the airport.

Dean said he didn’t know the exact number of flights that had been canceled, but the airport has averaged more than 670 arrivals and departures each day this month.

“The airlines are working to reposition their aircraft and resume their schedules,” Dean said. “I’d expect that, gradually, resumptions of normal operations would continue on Wednesday.”

But he added that some cancellations will likely occur Wednesday.

Representatives for Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier at BWI, did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday. On Monday, Southwest canceled more than 200 flights to and from BWI and 550 flights around the country.

‘It’s like Christmas Day out there’

Courts from the Eastern Shore to Garrett County, where snow fell through the night, were closed Tuesday. Garrett County Circuit Court and the county Clerk’s Office will also be closed Wednesday.

Interstate 68 in Garrett County was closed Monday night because of blizzard conditions. The Associated Press reported that the highway was reopened shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday

Early voting in Maryland will resume Wednesday. Polls will remain open through Friday to make up for Monday’s closings and will operate for longer hours: from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., O’Malley said.

State government and many local jurisdictions were also closed Tuesday. Baltimore’s mandatory travel restriction was lifted at noon, and city government agencies will reopen Wednesday.

Before the traffic ban was lifted, city residents appeared to be heeding the restriction, as many streets were empty.

“It’s like Christmas Day out there,” said Federal Hill resident Josh Cherriman. “Nobody’s out there; everything’s closed.”

The city saw about 6½ inches of rain, and more than 230 trees were reported down – about half of which were in streets – as of Tuesday morning.

Despite reports of some flooding over the docks at Chester Cove in Fells Point Tuesday, the neighborhood – and other low areas of the city that had braced for heavy damages – fared better than expected.

Other areas of the state were hit harder. Two deaths had been confirmed in Maryland as a result of the storm as of Tuesday afternoon, and a third was under investigation for possible connection to the weather.

Health secretary Joshua Sharfstein said an adult male died in a car accident Tuesday morning in Prince George’s County, and there is good reason to believe it was related to Sandy.

A 74-year-old Pasadena man was killed Monday night when a tree fell directly across the left side of his house, according to the Associated Press. Additionally, a woman in Germantown died in a car accident related to the storm.

Flooding continues to be an issue across the state. In Ocean City, for example, massive waves wiped out a vast portion of a popular fishing pier in the resort town Monday night.

Flooding continued there Tuesday, as well as around other state waterways. Officials said they are continuing to monitor the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River and the Monocacy River in Frederick County.

The Hatem Memorial and Tydings bridges over the Susquehanna, as well as the Chesapeake Bay bridge, were reopened, although wind advisories remained in place, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Wind warnings were lifted at the Francis Scott Key Bridge and Harry W. Nice Bridge.

There were more downed tree branches causing road closures across the state, including more than 50 roads in Harford County, where emergency response officials encouraged more than 6,600 residents and businesses from Havre de Grace to Joppatowne to evacuate because of two feet of flooding in some areas.

In Howard County, power outages at the Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant caused millions of gallons of sewage to gush into the Little Patuxent River starting Monday night.

BGE was able to restore power to the plant at about 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Only about 10 percent of the water flowing into the river was sewage, state officials said. The majority was storm water.

The utility company was unable to immediately address the outages there because storm conditions were too hazardous for workers to complete the necessary repairs.

Many businesses again took to social media to announce their status. Although many remained closed, others reported having no pressing reason not to open.

Harborplace and The Gallery in the Inner Harbor remain closed until Wednesday, as did Mondawmin Mall, Owings Mills Mall and White Marsh Mall. Other shopping centers opened Tuesday afternoon, however, including the Mall in Columbia, the Harford Mall and Towson Town Center.

Daily Record Business Writer Alexander Pyles and the Associated Press contributed to this article.