After days without power at Brooke Grove Retirement Village, Carol Randolph thought her 83-year-old mother and the other residents would enjoy the air conditioning of their outing to a pizza restaurant.
Instead, they seemed more excited about the pizza, Randolph said.
“They seemed in good spirits,” said Randolph of Olney. “Maybe it is just that generation of growing up without air conditioning and overcoming adversity.”
Brooke Grove, located on Slade School Road in Sandy Spring, went four full days without electricity after the June 29 derecho that caused widespread destruction and power outages across the region.
Dennis Hunter, vice president of the Brooke Grove Foundation, said they coped well, considering the outage affected the entire campus which houses about 200 residents, and was the most severe they have dealt with in recent memory.
Generators powered many small window air-conditioning units, and they created cooler “areas of refuge.”
“While the circumstances were extreme, Brooke Grove received many at-a-boys for its vigilance and effort to ensure the overall comfort of residents,” he said. “Most family members have been complimentary, leaders worked well together, and staff members maintained a positive spirit. When you have that kind of emotional we-can attitude, you can get through just about anything.”
Dels. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Calverton and Craig J. Zucker (D-Dist. 14) of Brookeville got involved, contacting Pepco officials to get the power restored.
Kaiser, whose new home was without power for three days, said she was surprised Brooke Grove wasn’t higher on Pepco’s priority list.
“I understand that it was a large storm and somebody has to be last to get their power restored, but I think what most people want is a better understanding of the timeline,” she said. “And if you are going to have a website, it should have useful information.”
Zucker, whose home was without power for 24 hours, said the District 14 team kicked into high gear after hearing from many constituents, and helped relay their concerns to Pepco.
“My thought process wasn’t figuring out why, I just wanted to get power back up,” he said. “We made sure that Pepco knew that Brooke Grove was a priority for District 14, and that there were a lot of vulnerable people there.”
Brooke Grove wasn’t the only facility without power. On July 2, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) visited Seabury at Springvale Terrace Senior Living in Silver Spring, saying the lack of electricity had created unacceptable conditions at the assisted-living facility.
“There are frail seniors, some are on dialysis and in their 80s and 90s,” Leggett said. “It’s cruel to believe they could weather a continuation of that without air conditioning.”
Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel said there is a priority system. Certified nursing homes can request to be added to the priority list and must provide documentation. Pepco works with local emergency management agencies to help prioritize the list.
Although Oppel didn’t know the particulars of the situation at Brooke Grove, she said the first step of restoration is repairing the backbone of the system, including the transmission substations and supply lines.
“It just depends on what repairs are ahead of you and the scope of the damage,” she said. “It can take crews hours just to get a tree removed to get to the power.”
Zucker also helped in getting a tree removed and downed power lines repaired on Norwood Road.
Joy Turner of Sandy Spring said the two trees fell, completely blocking the road and pulling down power lines. The live wires actually ignited two different times.
She was concerned about the safety hazard, and wanted the road closed until the tree and wires could be dealt with. Vehicles, pedestrians and buses continued to attempt to travel down the road.
She said several calls to Pepco went unanswered, but she finally got a response after calling Zucker, as well as the county’s Department of Transportation.
She said Zucker and his wife, Jenny, took matters into their own hands by setting up a lawn chair and a sign to mark that the road was closed at the intersection with Olney Sandy-Spring Road.
On July 4, the trees were removed and the power was finally restored.
Turner, who is the corresponding secretary of the Sandy Spring Civic Association, said the organization plans to establish a panel with a representative for each neighborhood in the community.
She said there are unique issues in that many of the residents are elderly, many have wells leaving them without water when the power goes out and many have horses. Turner added the original section of homes on Brooke Road have “old wiring,” and Pepco didn’t seem to know that the power source was located on a nearby farm.
Turner said they also are going to look into establishing a cooling center at Ross Boddy Community Center.
“We are going to come up with an emergency plan and a layout of the community, and pinpoint what the issues were,” she said. “When we get it together, we will request a meeting with Pepco and share the information with them.”