BERLIN — After an unexpected storm left motorists stranded on flash flooded roads and dozens without power through Saturday night into Sunday, the Berlin Mayor and Council congratulated the efforts of town departments and local emergency agencies during the storm.
With the effects of Saturday’s extensive rainfall near-crippling Berlin for several hours, including power outages reportedly lasting into mid-morning Sunday, town officials were quick to claim that things could have been far worse.
“You’d have to be totally isolated in the world not to know what’s going on with other places,” said Mayor Gee Williams.
He asserted that “people in Berlin measure outages in hours, not days,” alluding to lengthy blackouts experienced in western Maryland earlier this summer. Williams attributed Berlin getting back on the grid in the time it did to the efforts of the electric department and some new investments.
Electric Utilities Director Tim Lawrence explained that breakers at the power plant installed over the last year helped isolate the problem area, allowing electricity to be brought back online for individual sections of town.
“With the new breakers, the relay only opened the circuit that was affected,” he said. “The breakers did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Additionally, fault detectors that were put up this summer further aided the department in tracking the problem spots, which turned out to be a pair of lightning strikes, one on Buckingham Lane and another on Kitts Branch Road.
“They took us to the vicinity of where the problem was,” said Lawrence of the detectors, clusters of lights that flash whenever they detect a fault.
Compared to last summer, Lawrence said his department’s readiness and ability to address outages is “night and day.” Before the breakers were installed, an isolated outage could blackout the entire town and without the fault indicators errors had to be manually searched out across the entire grid.
It should be noted that even with the fault detectors much of the night had to be spent going from pole to pole in the area attempting to isolate the problem.
Lawrence admitted that he does see room for improvement, but that some delays caused by the storm were unavoidable.
“[Flooding] was a major issue,” he said, noting entire streets couldn’t be traversed by crews because the roads spent most of Saturday night and Sunday morning under up to three feet of water.
As far as overall blackouts go, Lawrence estimated that most of downtown was back online by 2 a.m. Sunday, with the area around Broad Street coming back at roughly 6:30 a.m. and the rest of Berlin powered by 11 a.m.
Besides the black outs, several motorists were also trapped in vehicles by rising water and residents have already reported thousands of dollars in flood damage already.
Earlier this week town officials thanked the Berlin Fire Company, Berlin Police Department (BPD), the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, the Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD), Maryland Natural Resource Police, and the Berlin Water Resources Department for their efforts during the storm.
The OCFD ended up utilizing their rescue boat while the BFD reported responding to at least 20 calls during the weather event. Several water rescues were made and a temporary shelter was opened. Water depths of four to five feet were recorded.
Flash flooding was severe enough in certain parts of town that vehicles were reportedly swept along with the water. An off-road tow truck and log skidder from Cropper and Son Towing was brought in to back up police, fire and rescue vehicles. During the rescue effort, one BPD vehicle was disabled and severely damaged attempting to reach stranded motorists on South Main Street.