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Residents cope after three days without power

Many go to library to recharge devices, seek out generators

By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

7:40 PM EDT, July 2, 2012

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Randy Race's shiny new generator was making a comforting racket Monday in the backyard of his home in Glendale in Baltimore County.

When he woke up to find tree limbs down in front of his house after the storm, he decided he wasn't going to put up with another night in the darkness and heat. He jumped into his truck and drove to Pennsylvania, hitting every Home Depot and tractor supply store on his way, looking for a generator. Finding them sold out, he drove nearly to West Virginia until he got a tip that a Sykesville Home Depot would have a delivery of 120 on Sunday morning.

He arrived at 8 a.m. "They were going through them about one every minute," he said.

He snagged one for $800, not too much to pay to make sure he had lights, a working refrigerator and fans this week.

As Baltimore-area residents adjusted to life after the storm, they slept in unusual places, shared their precious power, drove miles for ice and stayed on the lookout for rumbling white trucks with the green BGE logo. A little stunned that a summer thunderstorm could upend all they took for granted, some of the victims had done everything they could by Monday afternoon and were turning philosophical.

"It makes you see how quickly things can turn from normal life to everything turned upside down," said Darrell Witherspoon, who spent two hours Sunday standing in line for dry ice at the Community Ice Plant on Belair Road.

He hauled it back for himself and his neighbors, then slept on a pallet on the living room floor. About to evacuate the house on Walker Avenue in Northeast Baltimore for a hotel room, he spied aBaltimore Gas and Electric Co.truck in the alley on Monday, cheered and ran to talk to the driver.

About a mile away, Nicole Joseph, who had done about all the moviegoing and mall-shopping she could handle in a three-day stretch, said being without Internet, television and telephones wasn't all bad. "We bonded more as a family," the Glendale resident said.

Some people just couldn't stand the heat and had sent family members away or said they would decamp for a hotel soon.

Kevin Reid, who lives on Glenkirk Road, said he had sent his wife and children to relatives in Westminster, where there was power. He stayed at home to take care of the dogs, sleeping in a hammock on the screened-in back porch. He said he was surprised at how comfortable it was and how cold a cold shower really is.

Velma Dyson, who sat quietly in the shade of her Walker Avenue front porch with her ice water and radio at hand, said she had slept with a plastic bag full of ice on her neck. "It has just been too much," she said. On Monday, she went to work in a city school with no air conditioning.

Libraries were good places to cool off, and the Catonsville Library was where Angie Howard headed with her iPad, laptop and cellphone. Sitting on the library floor with the electronics charging around her Monday morning, Howard summed up the feelings of many without power.

"Stinks," the Catonsville resident said with a laugh.

Though the library's parking lot was nearly full, Howard's car wasn't among the vehicles. It was home, stuck beneath a fallen tree.

To get to the library, she walked 20 minutes from her apartment to a Subway restaurant on Baltimore National Pike, then hitched a ride to the library.

"It's getting very hot, and my apartment's very dark," Howard said. "I'm just sleeping a lot. That's what's getting me through."

In the children's section of the library, Melanie Bishop sat on the floor reading a book about business as she charged her laptop.

The mother of three sons between ages 5 and 14 said she has tried to keep them entertained with trips in the car and to the movie theater, restaurants and library.

The Catonsville resident described her sons as "bonkers" without the array of electronic devices they usually have at their fingertips. "They're not really sure what to do," Bishop said.

Many residents were being neighborly, sharing power and checking on one another.

Walter McGuire just moved to Stoneleigh from the Lake Roland area and is used to seeing summer storms knock out power for days at a time.

But now that he's enduring his first power loss in Stoneleigh, McGuire is learning that the neighborhood is well equipped for this type of thing.

"If you're going to be stuck, you want to be stuck in Stoneleigh," he said.

He said the neighbors have come together to help one another. Those with generators had helped him keep his food cold and his sump pump going.

McGuire said others are going door to door making sure everyone has the supplies they need, and the neighborhood is frequently checking in on an elderly neighbor.

"We're all just doing what we can," he said.

Pinehurst Wine Shoppe in the city's Cedarcroft neighborhood routinely orders 80 pounds of ice for next-day delivery. With no way to keep the ice from melting, co-owner Bob Schindler and manager Gordon McNamara decided to dump it curbside, and sell it to residents in the city and in nearby Rodgers Forge for $2.49 per 10-pound bag, "the same price we sell it for in the store," Schindler said.

But Schindler and McNamara didn't stop there. They bought out the Reddy Ice truck, got the driver's cellphone number and later called him back to bring them another shipment.

Then they bought out that supply. By Saturday night, they had bought 10,000 pounds of ice, or 1,000 10-pound bags, spending $1,200. They even wrote down credit card numbers of people who didn't have cash.

But they still didn't stop. On Monday afternoon, they were expecting another 1,050 bags.

"If it melts, we'll give it away," Schindler said. "We're just having fun with it. What else are you going to do?"

Patuxent Publishing reporters Brian Conlin, Larry Perl and Jon Meoli contributed to this article.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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