Vegetation On Power Line Leads To Ill-Timed Blackout

BERLIN – An electric transmission line problem led to a nearly two-hour power outage for thousands of electric customers in the Berlin and West Ocean City areas on Sunday evening, with the effect particularly noticeable at area restaurants where dinner service was in full swing when the lights went out.

Delmarva Power spokesman Matt Likovich said that power went out at 6:07 p.m. and power was restored around 8 p.m.

“It was vegetation on a transmission line,” Likovich said. “It could have been a tree limb. It could have been vines.”

Delmarva Power got a signal Sunday night from a West Ocean City substation that something was interfering with the electric lines, according to Likovich.

Extended contact by an outside object on a transmission line tripped the breaker in a local substation, which alerted Delmarva Power crews that something was interfering with the flow of electricity.

The breaker acts as a safety mechanism, which protects other electrical transmission system equipment from being damaged, Likovich said.

“We had to go patrol the line and find out what was the problem,” Lipovich said.

Jennifer Dawicki-David, co-owner of The Globe restaurant in Berlin, said she was forced to shut down her business for the night about 30 minutes into the power outage.

“You have to think of the safety of your guests, and the temperature of your food,” Dawicki-David said. 

The proprietor said she was concerned about customers and the staff in the kitchen moving around during the power outage, which occurred on a busy Sunday of Labor Day weekend.

“We were very lucky we weren’t full. It’s just challenging in a 100-year-old building that’s very dimly lit to begin with,” Dawicki-David said. “It’s just nerve wracking.”

The Globe, which accepts dinner orders until 9 p.m., had to turn customers away during and after the outage, according to Dawicki-David.

Dawicki-David attempted to get reservations for would-be patrons at other restaurants, but Taylor’s  Restaurant near Ocean Pines was so busy that management there said they could not guarantee reservations, and that the Globe should just send people over, according to Dawicki-David.

“For a holiday Sunday, we lost a substantial amount of business,” Dawicki-David said.

It was almost business as usual at Sunset Grille in West Ocean City despite the power outage. The kitchen at Sunset Grille runs largely on gas, and the restaurant also has a back-up generator, said manager John Curry.

“Our band continued to play…if the orders were in the kitchen, we cooked for ‘em,” said Curry, who added credit card orders were handled manually.

Anyone who arrived during the outage, however, could not be served, Curry said.

“We thought that it was going to be off longer,” Curry said. “It came back on and we sat the restaurant. Within 20 minutes, we were full again.”

However, Curry said the restaurant lost a full turnover on its tables.

“It definitely had a large effect,” Curry said of Sunday night’s power outage. “It was still a good night.”

Taylor’s Restaurant Executive Chef Drew Moore said that it seemed the Ocean Pines area became the destination for disappointed diners from Berlin and West Ocean City who had to leave or were turned away from powerless restaurants in those areas.

“Traffic was insane…it felt like we got all the overflow,” said Moore.

Every time he looked out the back door, Moore said, he saw traffic backed up on Route 589.

“We were much busier than we were last year,” Moore said. “We were up considerably from last year, and I think that’s due to the fact the power was out in West Ocean City and Berlin.”

Moore said he felt bad for the restaurants that lost seatings or service entirely during the power outage, since Sunday evening was essentially the last big night of the traditional summer.

Virginia Barbecue owner Nancy Poret confirmed Moore’s crowd claims, reporting it was a night to remember for the new business.

“They were actually lined up like opening day. We had to call in extra staff,” said Poret.

Poret said she wished she could have put tables outside on the sidewalk to accommodate customers during the rush.   

While her business gained, Poret also commiserated for the restaurants in West Ocean City and Berlin that suffered from Sunday night’s power outage.

Poret, who just opened the business this year, said she had never seen anything like it.        

“There were people with plates sitting on the curb outside eating dinner … all the seats were taken. There was a line out the door for probably two hours,” Poret said.