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BGE ramps up in storm preparation

Saturday - 10/27/2012, 1:06pm  ET

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BGE gets ready to handle power outages during superstorm Sandy. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Baltimore Gas and Electric is ramping up their efforts to be prepared for Hurricane Sandy.

The utility is warning customers that outages will likely be at least 100,000, and perhaps as high as 750,000 in a worst-case scenario.

And that means people could be without power for several days, similar to Hurricane Irene and the June derecho.

"We really want to get customers in the mindset of during the summer with the derecho and Hurricane Irene (in August 2011)," says BGE spokeswoman Rachael Lighty.

Although, she says that BGE is prepared for the worst.

"Our reports say this storm may be worse than Hurricane Irene. So, we are opening up an additional staging sites for out-of-state crews. Four this time compared to three during Irene."

More than 1,300 employees are getting ready, along with 2,000 additional crews arriving from across the country.

Something unavailable during the June derecho.

"We have some extra time to prepare for this storm and restoration. The derecho really hits us out of nowhere in the middle of the night. While we had people on the ground, it took us awhile to get mutual assistance into town," says Lighty.

Meanwhile, at a materials warehouse in Baltimore, staff are working around the clock and stocking up trucks with equipment to make repairs as quick as possible.

"Typically we work 5:30 a.m. to midnight at the warehouse to receive and deploy equipment. But we are working around the clock, as of Friday, until further notice," says Jerry Schmidt, BGE manager of materials and logistics.

BGE says it has brought in 20 percent more materials than during past storms for this restoration effort.

But what could complicate this restoration is the high wind and flooding.

When winds are above 25 mph, BGE does not permit employees to go up in bucket trucks to fix power lines.

Also, any flash flooding could prevent crews from getting to problems and cause equipment outside homes to short circuit.

"The flooding can knock out our underground electrical system and our gas service, which is actually what happened during Hurricane Isabel (in 2003)", says Schmidt.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)