Sandy’s Effects On Md. Business Still Being Felt
The Daily Record
BALTIMORE (AP) — Superstorm Sandy has left her mark across the state — from snow-covered hills in Garrett County to decimated piers in Ocean City and flooded basements everywhere in between — but she also made waves in the business community, where the ripple effects are still noticeable.
Mandatory travel restrictions, power outages and other consequences of the severe weather prevented many people from conducting normal banking procedures, such as paying bills or making deposits. With normal operations disrupted, several banks took steps to minimize inconveniences to customers and ease their minds.
Because many ATMs and bank locations were closed, several banks chose to waive certain fees, such as those on overdrafts or withdrawing money from another company’s ATM. Some customers could receive modified or extended loan payments.
Companies informed their customers via email and posted press releases on their websites, in which they also reminded customers they could perform most transactions online or over the phone.
Bank of America’s email blast read: “While the actual storm may be winding down, it’s often in the days after that its effects continue to be felt, as personal finances take a back seat to clean up and repair.”
Some banks, including M&T Bank, opted to enact the waivers proactively, but others, such as Bank of America and TD Bank, require customers to request it. Capital One said it will consider waiving fees on a case-by-case basis.
The banks also differ in the length of time they’re offering the waivers.
Bank of America spokesman Mark Pipitone said there is no deadline for customers to make inquiries about fees. Others, such as PNC Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase, told customers they have until Thursday or Friday to update their accounts to avoid fees.
And M&T’s release read: “Given that the storm may continue to impact some of our geographies throughout the next several days we will continually assess local conditions and evaluate the needs of our customers in affected areas.”
Banks reopened most of their branches Wednesday, although a few remained closed in harder-hit areas. Four of M&T’s Maryland locations were still closed — three in Garrett County and one in Harford County.
Similar financial leeway has been afforded in the public sector. Any taxes, both state and federal, that were due Wednesday won’t need to be filed until Nov. 7.
The Internal Revenue Service announced that tax payers and tax preparers affected by Superstorm Sandy will have an extra week, and a spokesman for the state comptroller’s office said Maryland would comply with the federal extension.
Payroll and excise taxes for some businesses in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic are usually due at this time, but there aren’t many taxes with an Oct. 31 deadline in Maryland, said spokesman Joe Shapiro.
Any taxes scheduled to be collected would generate “quite frankly, very little” revenue because they are so minor, he added.
Some areas in Maryland took a beating over the past two days, but the real estate and development industry in other parts of the state managed to dodge Sandy’s wrath.
Larry Lichtenauer, president and founder of Lawrence Howard & Associates Inc., said he hadn’t heard of any real estate development projects or office parks in Baltimore that suffered notable damage. Most fared well, he said.
And Bethesda’s DiamondRock Hospitality Co., a self-advised real estate investment trust that owns upscale and luxury hotels, reported that all of its hotels in areas impacted by Superstorm Sandy came through without significant damage, and that all employees and guests staying at the hotels are safe.
DiamondRock said eight of its hotels that were in the path of the storm — two in Washington, D.C., four in New York City and two in Boston — are open.
Sandy could have been a blessing for Wisp Resort, a ski lodge located in McHenry. The storm covered the region in a two-foot blanket of snow, which, in October, is a dream come true for a ski resort.
But the snow severely disrupted other aspects of life in Garrett County, which suffered the most extensive power outages in the state. Almost 80 percent of the county was still without power Wednesday night, and many roads remained completely inaccessible.
Calls to Wisp’s main office did not go through Wednesday, likely because — according to multiple posts on Facebook — electricity hadn’t yet been restored to the resort.
Wisp has run into some financial trouble recently; its owners filed for bankruptcy last month. A heavy, early snowfall might have lifted their spirits — had they been able to open for business.
Many flights arriving to and departing from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Wednesday morning were canceled. As the afternoon continued, more carriers announced they would operate more flights.
Still, several flights were canceled and several others delayed, many of which were to or from an airport in harder-hit areas of the East Coast.
Airport officials again urged customers to check their individual flight information with their specific airline.
The Maryland Transit Administration made good on its promises to operate the light rail, commuter bus service and MARC train lines on Wednesday. The Charm City Circulator in Baltimore also resumed normal service Wednesday, albeit with minor delays and route alterations.
In Washington, the Metro resumed its regular weekday bus schedule across the region, although there were some detours and delays due to downed trees and power lines.
About 21 percent of state residents were still without power Wednesday evening, the majority of whom live in Garrett, Allegany, Frederick, Harford and Somerset counties.
Within 24 hours of the storm’s passing, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. had restored power to 77 percent of those who lost power, the company reported, and Pepco reported that 95 percent of the outages in its service area had been restored as of Wednesday afternoon.
Information from: The Daily Record of Baltimore, http://www.mddailyrecord.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)