Like so many communities across the country, Baltimore is still reeling from the effects of the most recent storm to hit the East Coast. While some were merely inconvenienced, others suffered the loss of heat and hot water, downed trees and childcare problems caused by school closings and late openings.
According to David Buck, spokes-man for the Maryland State Highway Administration, last week’s weather event marked the 27th time since early December the SHA activated its operations center.
“It’s been almost every three days since Dec. 1,” said Buck. “All our crews do is prepare for storms, fight the storms and clean up after the storms. It’s been hard for crew members to get more than five hours of continuous sleep.”
Buck said that in the last five years, the SHA has spent about $70 million annually for winter operations in Maryland. So far this year, he said, it has already spent $80 million. The budget allotment for this winter, meanwhile, stands at only $46 million. Buck said the budget will be raised by $5 million per year until it reaches a dollar amount closer to what is actually being spent.
“We spend as much as we need to get the job done,” he stated.
Ilene Dackman-Alon of Pikesville said her family’s troubles began Thursday morning when they lost cable and Internet service. By that afternoon, they had lost all power. Her husband, Shay, who works from home and needed Wi-Fi, spent the day at a Panera restaurant in Pikesville. Dackman-Alon and their daughter, Rose, joined him for dinner. “We stayed there until 9 p.m. when they kicked us out. Then we went home and hunkered down with lots of blankets,” she said. “I was wearing three sweatshirts.”
At one point, Shay Alon was so desperate for a warm drink, he took the coffee pot outside and heated water on the grill. All told, the Alons were without power until Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
“We just stayed in bed until the heat came back on,” said Dackman-Alon.
In Reisterstown, Jessica Normington and her family were also among the many Baltimoreans who were without power. Normington said they lost power on Wednesday morning.
“We couldn’t find any flashlights,” she noted. “Since the kids were off and my husband, Scott, works from home, they just stayed in the house with a fire in the fireplace. I went to work.”
After she returned home, still without power, the family headed to the JCC in Owings Mills, where they stayed until bedtime. Then they went to her parents’ house to sleep. For the next two nights, the family, including their dog and guinea pig, would spend much of their time between those two places.
The JCC was a haven for many families during the mass power outages, said its marketing director, Robin Rose-Samuels. “We had power because we have a generator on-site. We have the generator because we are a designated emergency shelter for the state of Maryland.”
In addition to providing members with a comfortable place to weather the storm, the JCC also welcomed nonmembers who needed a place to shower.
Normington said that her children, ages 3 and 7, enjoyed the adventure brought by the storm, but as far as she was concerned it was “a pain in the neck.” Yet, she noted that they have been lucky in the past.
“In the five years we have lived in our house, we’ve never lost power for more than a couple of hours at a time,” said Normington. “During the derecho [in July 2012], we were probably the only street that had power. I felt like it was kind of our turn.”