WEST OCEAN CITY — Amidst last Saturday’s massive blackout, at least one shining light in the darkness was the Wine Rack on Route 50 in West Ocean City, thanks to a state initiative launched last summer.
In August, the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA), in conjunction with other public and private sector partners, officially launched its “Fuel Up Maryland” program at the Wine Rack in West Ocean City. The program provided $1.7 million in grant funding for private sector gas stations and fuel distributors along designated emergency evacuation routes across the state to wire their facilities and install back-up emergency generators in the event of a major storm or other extensive power outage.
The concept was borne out of the nightmare situation that occurred in New Jersey and New York during Super Storm Sandy in October 2012. As a result, over 600 gas stations within a half a mile of designated emergency evacuation routes from West Ocean City to western Maryland were eligible to apply for individual grants of up to $15,000 to pre-wire their facilities for the installation of permanent or temporary generators.
The Wine Rack in West Ocean City and its parent company, Ocean Petroleum, was the first to apply for and receive the state grant and spent the latter part of the summer installing the emergency generators at its facilities on Route 50 and in north Ocean City.
When the power went out just before dark last Saturday, the emergency generator at the West Ocean City Wine Rack tripped on immediately. While the outage in West Ocean City lasted just about two hours, the outages in neighboring areas went on considerably longer. For those few dark hours, however, the Wine Rack was the only game in town for many needing gas and other supplies.
“It worked just as it was designed to do,” said Ocean Petroleum Chief Operating Officer Steve Ladd this week. “It was the first time other than some testing that it was utilized, and it came on automatically as planned. It worked out just fine.”
Ladd said the Wine Rack just recently completed the installation of an automatic switch that triggers when an outage occurs. Before that was completed, a store staffer would have to hit a switch to manually change over to generator power.
“We just got the automatic switch in place a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “It was seamless. We wouldn’t necessarily know we had even switched over to generator power.”