About 22 people from around Maryland criticized Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s (BGE) performance after the June 29 derecho storm at a public meeting in Annapolis on Monday night.
However, the lone voice in support of BGE came from Davidsonville resident Erin Minich, who spent 36 hours without power and endured the derecho storm in a crawl space while on vacation in Dewey Beach, DE.
"We ended up hiding in a crawl space with a 2-year-old and our babysitter," Minich said, explaining how sand whipped vigorously in her face.
Minich said she felt Mother Nature was to blame more than BGE.
"I have a slightly different point of view as it relates to this specific storm. How I feel is, after any storm severe enough to leave people without power they are going to be angry, complaining and blaming BGE," she said. "I personally feel that maybe BGE needs to be cut some slack on this specific storm. I know my popularity just went down big in this room."
The two-hour meeting was the third of eight scheduled by Maryland's Public Services Commission—the regulating body for utility companies in the state. The meetings are part of the commission's investigation into how well utility companies worked to restore power after the derecho. Most of the attendants at the gathering weren't nearly as supportive as Minich.
"I've lived in Third World countries; I’ve lived in rural Mississippi; I’ve lived behind the Iron Curtain, and I have never experienced the poor power supply that I have here in Annapolis," Dave Bastian said.
Jason Kammerdiener said he lived through nine hurricanes in Florida and lost power for more than two days each time, but he's often without power in Arnold for five or more days.
"I feel as though I’m a slave in my own house," Kammerdiener said.
He compared BGE's customer service to "a three-ring circus, and I’m the clown in the car."
Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold showed up and read a prepared statement on where he thought BGE could improve its relationship with local governments.
He focused mainly on Anne Arundel County's desire for more accurate and up-to-date outage information "so that we can have real-time information so that people will know exactly when they are in the queue for having their power restored."
"I think BGE could do a much more effective job in providing that kind of communication," Leopold said.
Officials with Annapolis' Office of Emergency Preparedness and Risk Management (OEM) reached out to BGE earlier this month to discuss an Annapolis specific map for service disruptions.
BGE spokesman Rob Gould sat toward the back of the Legislative Services Building's joint hearing room listening to the comments. He said the complaints are in line with what the company has already heard.
Gould said the installation of smart meters will help BGE provide better information to local governments and customers because his company will be able to ping each meter to see if a house has power.
One of the repeated complaints by commenters was frustration over a lack of knowledge about when power would be restored. Gould said after Hurricane Irene, BGE customers reported they would prefer worst-case scenario timelines rather than a series of changing estimates.
"It's almost like surgery," Gould said. "It looks like it will take us 'X' long, but until we get in and open up the patient, we're really not going to be able to tell you. It could go longer."
In June, a destroyed transformer near Baltimore took the company about four days to repair—well beyond initial estimates.
Gould also blamed modern technology, saying it created an expectation that information should always be available immediately. The smart meters will improve communication times, but Gould said there will always be a certain amount of lag between the time a disaster hits, and the time information becomes available.
"The gap between expectations and the reality of restoration continues to widen," Gould said. "As that gap continues to widen, frustrations will continue to grow."