Sandy Recovery Well Under Way for Most of Maryland
By Ian Duncan
Recovery for the worst-hit areas of Maryland dragged on three days after the remnants of Sandy swept through, while the rest of the state got back to business as usual.
In Crisfield, among the hardest-hit areas, some residents faced long-term relocation after storm waters made their homes uninhabitable, including about 100 who live in a public housing project.
Elsewhere, tens of thousands of people remained without power Thursday evening, mostly in snowbound Garrett County. Service for some Verizon customers also was down.
But in most areas, officials said, life was getting back to normal.
"Compared to Hurricane Isabel in 2003 it's been fairly quick," said Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
He said the agency was focusing its energy on Garrett County and Crisfield on the Eastern Shore.
Some residents in the Somerset County town ripped up carpet from their flooded homes and cleared away yard debris Thursday while others worried about where they would spend the night.
Antonio Whittaker said he and his wife of three years, Monica Cherry, had no place to go. The couple had been staying with Whittaker's mother at Somers Cove Apartments, a subsidized housing project, but the homes were badly flooded.
"It's sad," Whittaker, 32, said. "We lost everything. Our car's flooded. We lost all of our clothes. All of our stuff is ruined. We have nothing."
Crisfield Mayor P.J. Purnell said inspectors Thursday declared about 100 of the project's 330 units uninhabitable, because of the flooding, damage to the units' electricity and concerns about mold.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, which Purnell said are jointly responsible for the project, did not return requests for comment.
Officials closed the Somerset County shelter at Washington High School and Academy in Princess Anne and shifted some of the displaced residents to a nearby civic center. The American Red Cross worked with government officials to find the displaced longer-term housing.
"A lot of people left the shelter with nothing to come home to," Purnell said.
Veronica Hill, 43, waited outside a community center where the Salvation Army handed out sandwiches and soup to find out what she needed to do next. She came back to her flooded apartment after spending Tuesday night at a shelter and working Wednesday, wondering what help was available.
"I'm scared. I am still thinking about the water," said Hill, who was watching television in her bed Monday when the water came rushing into her room.
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said it will be sending inmates to the town to help with the clean-up efforts starting Friday.
The number of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers without power dropped to about 7,000 as of 5 p.m. Thursday, with the lights back on for nearly 340,000 customers. Rob Gould, a BGE spokesman, said the "vast majority" of customers still without power should get it back by Friday evening. Some outages could drag into the weekend depending on the complexity of the repair, he said.
"Right now we're basically at 98 percent complete, so we've made some very good progress," Gould said Thursday afternoon. "We're not letting up on the accelerator when it comes to our remaining customers … and we very much appreciate their patience."
Statewide, about 30,000 customers — 8 percent — had no power at 5 p.m. Thursday. Many of them live in Garrett County, where Sandy dumped so much snow that the Potomac Edison Co. took widespread damage to its power grid from falling trees. Nearly 60 percent of Garrett's population had no power as of 5 p.m. Thursday.
In Baltimore, staff from the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods and the Department of Housing went door to door, visiting the 1,200 people there still without power, offering them batteries, water and other assistance
"We'll be back to normal when everyone has their power on," said Ian Brennan, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
The outages also were causing disruptions to Verizon cable, phone and Internet services. Richard Lamond of Reisterstown said he has been calling the cable company every day since his service went out Monday. Each time he said it has taken him at least an hour to reach an operator.
"It's a week I've been without all those services; it's been appalling," he said. "We're literally dead in the water."
It will be a while before people get back online, company spokeswoman Sandra Arnette said, because the company's technicians cannot get into areas to start repairs until the power is back up and the electric companies declare them safe.
"Our trouble load is four times higher than it was before Hurricane Sandy hit our area," she said. "Our Verizon crews are working 12-hour shifts and will continue to do so until all services are fully restored to our customers, which we expect should be within a week or so."
The Baltimore County Department of Public Works said the storm broke a sewer pipe in Rosedale on Tuesday afternoon, spilling 951,500 gallons of effluent. The department said it fixed the pipe early Thursday morning and will monitor water quality.
With recovery efforts wrapping up, the next step for public agencies will be to assess the damage caused by the storm. Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County Police, said the county will examine damage done to public facilities, roads and bridges as well as account for any costs clearing debris. If damage costs are high enough, officials will start an application for state and federal aid.
Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf and Jamie Smith Hopkins contributed to this article.