Living without electricity after major storm is 'just like you're camping'

October 31, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN |

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Bill Wolfensberger of Clear Spring was planning Wednesday to get large containers of water to use for flushing toilets and washing up.

Wolfensberger, 60, of 13320 Gruber Road, had been without power since Monday night, courtesy of Superstorm Sandy. Although he has a generator, he still had no central heating or running water.

Despite that, he said, “We were pretty much prepared,” for the storm. “Seventy years ago this is how people lived, and if you’re prepared for it, you can live with it.”

Temperatures remained below 50 degrees in the Hagerstown area Wednesday.

Wolfensberger said that he was not prepared for the weather to get cold and ran into problems warming up the house.

“The wood that I got in got wet, and I couldn’t really get much of a fire going in the wood stove,” he said. “It was a little cool last night but it wasn’t too bad. This is nothing compared to the 1993 snowstorm.”

About 1,000 Potomac Edison customers in Washington County were without power at 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to FirstEnergy’s website. The zip code encompassing Clear Spring was listed as having more than 700 power outages.

Houses across one side of Gruber Road were without power between Dam No. 5 Road and Ashton Road.

Bernard Henson Jr., of 13214 Gruber Road, said that he had also been prepared for the power to go out, but it was still annoying.

“You can’t really do what you want to do,” Henson, 67, said. “In case of emergencies I have a 55-gallon barrel of water, canned food out of my garden, and a wood stove.”

Louise Henson, 59, of 13228 Gruber Road, said she also had to deal with the power being out since Monday.

“It’s just like you’re camping,” she said. “We put water in buckets and jugs, we got out kerosene lamps and heaters, and you have to worry about your freezers and meats. I just sat back and read a book.”

PE spokesman Todd Meyers said as of Wednesday power is expected to be restored for all of PE’s customers in the Western Virginia Eastern Panhandle by midnight Friday and its Maryland customers by 6 p.m. Saturday, except for those in Garrett County.

“We’re making good progress. A number of crews are out there working,” Meyers said. “We’re still telling people, don’t assume we know about your outage. Call 888-544-4877.”

Meyers advised residents without power to find safe ways to keep warm.

“If you can’t go to relatives’ houses, blankets and sleeping bags are important,” he said. “Don’t use patio grills, charcoal grills, or stoves.”

Despite some residents still being without power, others got it back Wednesday but still had other issues.

Dave Cunningham, 55, of 12305 Big Spring Road, said his power was back on Wednesday, but part of a tree had toppled onto his patio, taking down a telephone line.

“I actually watched it split, and as it was coming down ... it was heading toward the main part of the patio, a gust of wind swirled in and pushed it another way, so we were really lucky and blessed,” he said. “It’s done a lot of cosmetic damage to the patio and took out one end of the gutters and downspouts.”

If your power is out, here are some tips from Todd Meyers, spokesperson for Potomac Edison, and the FirstEnergy website at

• If your power is out or you see a wire down, report it do Potomac Edison at 888-544-4877.

• Keep sleeping bags and blankets around for warmth. Do not use patio grills, charcoal grills, or stoves.

• If you have a generator, make sure it is hooked up properly. Operate it safely in a well-ventilated area, make sure it has enough fuel, and disconnect the power coming into your home.

• Never touch a line on the ground or hanging from an electrical pole.

• Keep children and pets away from wires that are down.

• If a line that is down is near water, stay away from it.

• Unplug refrigerators and freezers and sensitive electronic equipment such as televisions and computers.

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