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Hungry Students Scavenge Closed Downtown for Food

Hurricane Irene welcomed students back to the University of Maryland by knocking out the power.

It’s the first Sunday morning that the University of Maryland students are back in College Park, and they’re hungry.

“Everything is closed right now, so we have nothing to eat,” Laura Steere, a freshman, said as she sat on a bench near Baltimore Avenue with fellow freshman Anna Cardoni.

They weren’t alone.

By about 11 a.m., students were roaming downtown College Park, searching for a business that was unscathed by the tropical storm that swept through overnight. But it seemed every single restaurant and store in the area was without power.

“We’re really hungry, and we’re thirsty right now,” Cardoni said.

Students weren’t the only ones hanging around, just waiting.

Across the street, bar and restaurant owners Pat Aheren of and Mark Srour of , seemed just as eager for the power to come back on. They both said power went off for the first time somewhere around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, then it came back on for about 45 minutes, then shut off again for good.

“I called Pepco, but they just have a recording,” said Mark Srour of Cornerstone.

None of the business owners or managers who spoke to Patch said they had been given an estimate from Pepco for when power would be running again.

Bob Hainey, manager of media relations at Pepco told Patch that the electric company is not issuing an estimated time of restoration right now. For about the next 24 hours, the crews will be assessing the damage before issuing a time estimate.

"We are looking at how badly damaged the system is," he said.

The Pepco outage map showed at 12:30 p.m. that 11,707 homes and businesses in the College Park, Riverdale and Greenbelt area were reporting power outages.

Srour and Aheren said they couldn’t estimate how much business they would lose until they knew when the power will be turned back on.

“Losing business is never good,” Srour said.

For a restaurant that thrives on morning traffic, however, the damage is a little more certain.

Bobby Karanovich, owner of , said Sunday’s power outage is a severe hit, especially on the first weekend that students are back in town.

“This is when you make up what you lost during the summer,” he said.

At 11:30 a.m., he said even if the power came on later in the day, he wouldn’t open the restaurant.

“It takes two hours for the ovens to heat up. … We’d miss the lunch rush,” he said.

There was at least one downtown business, however, that was working around the power outage.

RadioShack manager Steve Nagy set up a table on the sidewalk outside of the shop to let those roaming around College Park know that it was open, but for cash transactions only.

“Pen and paper,” he said. That’s how RadioShack would function without a credit card machine.

“You see what you can do to make a buck, and to help people out,” he said.

And the students right now appreciate a little bit of help.

The Adele Stamp Student Union wasn’t opening until noon, so they couldn’t eat there. Some students said they didn’t have much more than crackers, and others who said they had food didn’t have the power to cook it.

Despite the stormy and powerless first weekend back, students and some business owners were looking at the silver lining of the big, gray, tropical storm cloud.

“I think the hurricane could have been worse,” Srour said. “College Park is pretty much intact.”

Students were still enthusiastic to be back.

“I think the hurricane added to the craziness,” said sophomore Calla Morrison, as she sat on the steps of the dilapidated Santa Fe Café, trying to decide what to do in a powerless college town.

Robert Mang August 29, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Great story!
Shannon Hoffman August 30, 2011 at 01:35 AM
Thanks! Glad it had a happy ending with most of the businesses there opening up by evening.

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