New storm, same story: “Like camping out”

by Howard Kohn

No big surprise — the icy blizzard of January 26 left half of Takoma Park in the dark. Branches snapped from trees and broke power lines, and on some streets huge, fully grown trees fell.

This was a Wednesday evening. Kathy Porter, the ex-mayor, was without electricity and heat at her house on Elm Avenue until Saturday evening.  “It was 40 degrees in here. The temperature in the kitchen was colder than in the refrigerator so I left the door open to keep the food cold,” she said afterward.  “At night it was like camping out.”  She slept with her cats under a down quilt and maneuvered about with flashlights she inherited from her father.


This scene on Holly Avenue was typical of the aftermath of January’s “thunder snow” which left half of Takoma Park in a cold dark. power outage. (photo by Julie Wiatt)

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Bruce Williams, the current mayor who lives a few blocks away on Lincoln
Avenue, lost power and Internet for a day and a half, slightly better
than the average length of inconvenience for customers of Pepco, which
once again finished last among the regional utilities in the race to
reconnect lines and reestablish a normal state of affairs.

It was impossible to find a politician sympathetic to Pepco. “All of us
are beyond frustration,” Governor Martin O’Malley fumed.  Jamie Raskin,
our District 20 senator, said he was ready to discuss any changes that
would “reform, transform or replace Pepco.”

Susan Comfort, a neighbor of Kathy and Bruce, gave a “shout out” via
e-mail to Tom Hucker, one of our District 20 delegates, for making the
Pepco outages personal.  In Susan’s case she appealed to Tom for help on
Saturday afternoon while she was at her warm office with her cats (“I
felt so badly leaving them alone in a cold house for the third straight
day”).  Tom, who had set up communication with the Pepco crews, directed
one of them to the neighborhood.

“When I took the cats home at six o’clock the Pepco trucks were on our
street. When I came home again at nine o’clock power had been restored,”
Susan said.

In Tom’s neighborhood, over by Four Corners, inconvenience veered toward
peril. One man slept in his car so he could hook up his oxygen tank to
the car battery, and another man, who is 108 years old, had to crawl
through his unlit house.

Tom made a record of such instances and forwarded them to O’Malley’s
office, and he reported, “I secured a commitment from the governor’s
legislative director that he’ll support our legislation to impose
reliability standards and financial penalties on Pepco.”

Meanwhile, lacking much of a choice, folks made do.  Karen Mendez played
Scrabble and Jenga with her son Julian at their home on Kennebec
Avenue, and she was vigilant about adding warm water to the aquarium.
“My poor fish needed a jacket,” she said.

When the power came back she joked about mixed feelings: “No more candlelit dinners and conversations with my son.”

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