After Tropical Depression Ernesto rolled into the Southern Maryland area early on Friday, September 1, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) worked on restoring electric service and making repairs throughout the service area until late Monday night.
Outages began early Friday morning and peaked on Saturday morning when approximately 25,600 customer-members were without power: 14,300 customer-members in St. Mary's County, 8,900 in Calvert, and 2,400 in the Charles-Prince George's region.
As with hurricanes that come from the south, the hardest hit areas are the waterfront and those near the rivers and bay, particularly the islands and low-lying areas of St. Mary's County. The heavy rain and strong winds resulting from Ernesto took down trees and limbs which fell on power lines and caused most of the damage to the electric system. The damage was not isolated or concentrated in one area, but scattered and widespread. Over 1,866 separate incidents were reported, ranging from broken utility poles and downed power lines to uprooted trees snapping underground cables. In addition to property damage, flooding delayed the restoration of service to some customers. Because of safety concerns, power to St. George's Island was disconnected at approximately 7:30 p.m. Friday and restored later the next day.
SMECO crews working on restoring electric service included the following: 17 in the Charles-Prince George's region, 15 in St. Mary's, and 11 in Calvert. Along with additional apparatus crews that worked on transmission lines, other co-op personnel assisted in each regional office and the headquarters. Employees from all areas of the company including safety division personnel, meter readers, collectors, customer service representatives, foremen, materials management personnel, and distribution system operators in the operations center were integral to the co-op's service restoration process.
SMECO also had contractor crews working on power restoration; they included 16 Pike crews with 91 employees, 22 Penn Line crews with over 80 employees, nine G & G crews, one Southern Maryland Cable crew, and C.W. Wright crews who assisted with repairs to transmission and distribution lines. An additional 60 Pike linemen from electric co-ops in Georgia were on-site Sunday and Monday to lend further support. All the necessary equipment and materials required for restoring service were available. In situations possibly unrelated to the storm, two large transformers were replaced: one 500-kilovolt-ampere transformer at North Point High School in Charles County and a 150-kilovolt-ampere transformer in Leonardtown in St. Mary's County.
SMECO had restored power by Sunday evening to all known customer-members affected by the tropical depression and without power in Charles and Prince George's counties. Most of the customers in Calvert County had their power restored by Sunday night, with remaining customers restored by Monday evening at 7 p.m. Repairs continued throughout Monday in St. Mary's County and were completed by approximately 10 p.m. In addition, repairs to two transmission circuits that were out of service were completed on Monday.