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Snowy Md. county struggles to recover from Sandy

David Dishneau, Associated Press

Garrett Colmer works on a generator outside his stepfatherís home in unincorporated Finzel, near Frostburg, Md., on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. The vast majority of homes in mountainous, western Maryland Garrett county lost power after superstorm Sandy dumped more than 2 feet of snow in the area. (AP Photo/David Dishneau)

FINZEL, Md. (AP) -- One county in far western Maryland is suffering some of the worst lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy where most of the local roads are impassable and nearly eight in 10 people lost power when a blizzard dumped more than two feet of snow.

Gov. Martin O'Malley planned to visit residents and emergency management officials in Garrett County on Thursday. By the morning, it had the most power outages remaining in the state at more than 15,000.

Four days after the storm began, residents there were running low on supplies, county officials said. The mood was changing from concern to unhappiness.

"They're running out of gas to run their generators, they're running out of food, they're running out of patience and it's not a good combination," said Garrett County roads chief Jay Moyer.

At least 80 percent of local roads in the mountainous, heavily forested county remain blocked by fallen trees, limbs or other debris. Moyer said it was the worst storm damage he's seen in 38 years.

"We're really being hampered by trees that have been downed by the snow, that have become entangled in power lines and other lines," he said.

Moyer said help was on the way from the National Guard, the State Highway Administration, neighboring Allegany County and even a Mennonite community in Grantsville.

Debi and Denny Dunn spent Wednesday afternoon in their finished basement, warmed by a coal burner, rather than in the chilly living quarters upstairs where the temperature was 59 degrees. They stored their cold food outside in the 30-degree air and flushed their toilet with 5-gallon buckets of water they filled before the power went out Monday night.

The Dunns were prepared for several days without electricity, but Debi Dunn, a machine operator, was stunned when told that Potomac Edison doesn't expect to have power fully restored to the county until sometime next week.

"Oh, my gosh," she said. "I'm sure they're doing the best they can. It's just — oh, my."

With five aquariums to keep oxygenated, she and her husband, a rocket-engine assembly worker for Alliant Techsystems Inc., said they might have to take their storm preparedness to the next level. They were thinking about going out to buy a power generator.

Todd Myers, a spokesman for electric utility Potomac Edison said nearly eight customers in 10 had lost power in the county. But power won't be fully restored until sometime next week, he said.

"The trees keep falling down," he said. "We made a little bit of headway but then the trees keep falling down as they get weighted."

The power outage was a bigger problem for the Savage River Lodge than the two-plus feet of snow near Frostburg. Co-owner Jan Russell said she canceled reservations starting this weekend for all 18 cabins because the units won't have electricity.

"We had some people coming and staying the whole week. It's a big chunk of money we're going to lose," she said of their vacation lodging business. "A lot of people planned for this for a year."

Russell said she doesn't fault Potomac Edison for not restoring the power sooner.

"I think they've got just an overwhelming amount to handle," she said. "I know that everybody's hounding them."