Power has been restored to Annapolis homes and businesses and other nearby parts of Anne Arundel County after Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported a disruption to two main lines servicing the area Thursday night.
Off-duty city police officers were called in to help direct traffic at blackened intersections throughout the city, and county officers had to assist in getting people out of the Annapolis Mall, said Lt. Glenn Shanahan, a county police spokesman. Anne Arundel Medical Center ran on generators, awaiting word as to when the power would return, a spokeswoman said.
Rob Gould, a BGE spokesman, said the company expected power to be restored to most of the 70,000 customers early Friday morning. Many crews had arrived to bring areas back online by late Thursday.
Residents reported and posted pictures and videos online of dramatic flashes of light in the sky, likely caused by the transmission lines blowing.
"It was a light show, some crazy bluish, greenish, gray lights in the sky," said Donna Cole, who lives in Edgewater. "The electric was going on and off for, I'd say, a good two minutes before it finally went off completely."
Ted Staples, an attorney who lives outside the city in the Stone Point community, said he was on his couch reading Sports Illustrated and had the television on for background noise when suddenly he was sitting in the dark.
He said he thinks it was about 9:15 p.m. when there was a flash.
"The whole sky lit up, in the northwest, it was incredible," he said. That was toward the Annapolis Mall and Generals Highway, outside the Annapolis city line, he said.
Lights flickered dimly in his home, and then everything was dark. He put his golden retriever, Jack Sparrow, on a leash and joined neighbors outside, each asking one another what had happened — though nobody knew.
Gould said what was clear was that the company had "lost service to two main feeder lines to the Annapolis area" just before 9 p.m.
"We've isolated the problem areas, and we're working through them," he said Thursday night. "There definitely was a transmission line involved, which has higher voltage, and it is likely that that flash was related."
Some of the worst line damage occurred along Generals Highway, he said.
Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen said he watched the sky from his home in the west part of the city.
"The sky was vibrating almost between blue and green and bright white. It was nuts," Cohen said. "But it was also clearly localized and originated at a particular spot."
Cohen said he was told by BGE that two substations had shut down. He said the city's water treatment plant and sewage-pumping stations were operating on generators. City police and public works crews were called in to place stop signs at blackened intersections and drive to the plants to check on them, he said.
"Traffic control is the biggest concern," he said. "It's just not safe to be out on the road with no power and wet, rainy, windy conditions." As of Friday at 7:20 a.m., no traffic problems were being reported.
Anne Arundel Medical Center was turning away new patients until power there was restored shortly before midnight, Cohen said.
Cohen said separate reports had come in late Thursday that there was some degree of flooding in downtown Annapolis as well.
Lt. Keith Hamilton of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department said emergency personnel were responding to businesses and homes throughout the area — in Crownsville, Arnold and Annapolis — because a large surge of electricity set off alarms, in turn triggering automatic requests for assistance.
"We're responding to a heavy volume of those," he said.
Many power lines were also down and sparking in the area, he said.
Shanahan said there was not a spike in crime — nor was there looting at the mall, as some had reported on social media — as of late Thursday night.
Cohen said the Annapolis Business Association had been holding its "11th Hour" event, in which local businesses stayed open until 11 p.m. for holiday shoppers. The outages put a stop to that, but Cohen said he hopes they'll return this weekend.
Cole's daughter, Ry, 11, said the event was frightening, given the much-hyped Mayan rumor of the end of the world arriving Friday.
"Today of all days!" she said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.