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Md. Cleaning Up Irene’s Mess

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REISTERSTOWN, Md. (WJZ)– The state is now assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Irene and restoring services to its residents.

Adam May has the latest on the efforts to get Maryland back up and running.

The No. 1 priority at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters is restoration, including restoring power to the hundreds of thousands of Maryland residents who lost power due to the storm.

Hurricane Irene smashed into Maryland, hitting the shores of Ocean City with 70 mph wind gusts. The monstrous storm brought down trees across most of the state, cutting off power to 800,000 residents.

“The major disruption in infrastructure really is the power outages that we’ve been reporting,” Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said.

The Lieutenant Governor and other state officials toured the damage Sunday afternoon. They inspected flooding in southern Calvert County.

“We did see a couple of communities down there in the southern end of the county that you could see were inundated with flood water,” said Superintendent Marcus Brown of the Maryland State Police. “Floodwater, at least to the first level four to six feet, into the houses down there.”

In Queenstown, an 85-year-old woman was killed when a tree smashed into a chimney of the home, sending debris through the roof of the sunroom.

Emergency management officials say evacuation orders for parts of the Eastern Shore helped prevent more casualties.

“I think it’s a significant storm but I think we weathered it well,” said Richard Muth, executive director of MEMA. “Certainly, hats off to the citizens of Maryland for listening to and heeding the instructions of the evacuation when they had to– staying off the roads was a big, critical thing for life safety.”

President Obama has expanded a federal disaster declaration at the urging of the Maryland Congressional Delegation.

“FEMA will be coming in to work with local power companies to restore power to critical infrastructure first,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

Cleanup and restoration will take days and cost millions of dollars.

Since the height of this storm, electricity has been restored to 200,000 Maryland residents.

MEMA will be in full operation for at least the next couple of days with numerous state agencies overseeing the cleanup to Maryland’s worst tropical system to hit in almost a decade. The agency is also monitoring the power outages. Most of the residents without power are in the I-95 corridor that was hit very hard by the storm

Six million people lost power as Hurricane Irene roared across the East Coast. Many in Maryland are still waiting for the lights to come back on. More than 400,000 BGE customers are still without power, the majority in Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties and Baltimore City.

Meghan McCorkell has a closer look at the widespread outages and what BGE is doing about them.

BGE has been able to restore power to about 250,000 customers since Hurricane Irene hit. But for those still in the dark, it could be several days.

Traffic signals are out as candles flicker in windows. It’s another night of eerie darkness for thousands.

The battering winds and heavy rain of Hurricane Irene toppled trees in our area. Those branches brought down power lines. A blown transformer in Timonium lit up the night sky.

“I tried to flip the light in the bathroom, but it didn’t come on,” said 11-year-old D’Angelo Parham. “So, I said, ‘The power’s out.'”

Donise Parham and her son, D’Angelo brought provisions as they explore their pitch black neighborhood.

“My flashlight, because not only do we not have light in the house, we have no lights in the neighborhood,” Donise Parham said.

BGE has called in crews from across the country for help. Sunday night, they replaced a power pole in West Baltimore after lightning set it on fire.

“All of a sudden I heard this loud boom. I didn’t know what it was. Came outside and saw all these sparks and flames shooting out of the trees and everything,” Daniel Kerins said.

Right now, BGE is prioritizing which areas to hit first.

“Our focus is on a few things today,” BGE Spokesman Rob Gould said. “Public safety facilities, like water pumping stations and 911 centers, making sure that they have the power that they need.”

Next, they’ll work to restore power to large neighborhoods that are completely in the dark, like one in North Baltimore.

Finally, they’ll tackle the scattered individual homes that have lost power.

“We know we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Gould said.

BGE has called in crews from as far away as Arkansas and Georgia to deal with Irene’s aftermath. Sunday, power has been restored to several hospitals, including the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Sheppard Pratt and St. Joseph Medical Center.

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