October 30, 2012

Maine: Expect flooding, outages as storm passes

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Local and state officials don’t expect Maine to be hit as severely by Hurricane Sandy as other Eastern states, but still expect flooding and power outages caused by strong wind.

click image to enlarge

Carroll Whitman attempts to start a generator Monday belonging to his sister, Harriet Blanche, at her Manchester home. The siblings were preparing for the high wind generated by Hurricane Sandy. Whitman, a mechanic, said the mobile electricity supply can be tough to start if they aren’t used often.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage tours the Maine Emergency Management Agency offices in Augusta on Monday.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Gov. Paul LePage on Monday declared a state of emergency as the hurricane approached, allowing state agencies to use available resources and personnel as necessary.

Before the declaration, LePage and Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Robert McAleer reported no significant changes to the storm during a press conference Monday afternoon and said the emergency response team will continue monitoring the storm.

“Obviously this is a very large storm that is going to impact a significant portion of the eastern coast of the country,” McAleer said. Officials expected the greatest impact to be felt in the southern part of the state.

Meteorologist Margaret Curtis, at the National Weather Service’s Gray office, said 1 to 3 inches of rain could fall by the time the storm turns to showers later today and wind gusts could reach 60 mph. Minor local flooding could occur in small streams and brooks, and light rain could continue into Thursday, she said.

“In central Maine, we’re really just looking at a very windy, rainy day with some power outages, maybe a bit worse than your typical October rain storm, but nothing like they are seeing in New Jersey,” she said. “We’re in the warm air and not expecting any snow.”

Curtis said she didn’t expect the Kennebec River to reach flood stage. The biggest issue facing the state as day breaks today will be the effects of high wind, she said.

Even as state officials said they were in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, LePage declined support from its Incident Management Assistance Team — a group of senior-level professionals who provide expertise in operations, logistics, planning and recovery as part of FEMA’s first responders. LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said that support was declined because other states don’t have a fully operational emergency operation center and will need the support more than Maine, though she couldn’t identify which states.

Jeremy Damren, spokesman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency on Monday, said that all New England states have emergency operation centers. In Maine, the center has members of state agencies that offer resources for state, county and local level as requested in emergencies, and they usually work with county emergency directors, Damren said.

McAleer said the state emergency agency has been in contact with FEMA and will ask for assistance if the need rises, but he didn’t anticipate that happening.

Wind warnings and flood watches were posted by the National Weather Service for Kennebec County through 8 a.m. today.

Central Maine Power Co. called in extra crews from New Brunswick, company spokesman John Carroll said.

CMP reported 26,000 outages as of 5 p.m. Monday, the vast majority in York County.

Carroll said the company’s first priority will be to repair damaged equipment so roads can be cleared in the event of downed trees and power lines. Electrical service restoration will come later, he said.

“We’re ready — everybody in our company is mobilized. We started the day with a safety briefing,”

Carroll said Monday afternoon as Maine residents watched the storm intensify to the south. “We’re brought in almost double the number of crews were would normally have. Normally we have 90 to 95 crews; we brought in another 90 crews.”

Carroll said the company is warning its customers to make preparations for the possibility of multiday outages as strong wind is expected along the coast and toward the mountains and foothills above 1,500 feet.

If outages occur, the company urges customers to call its toll-free outage hotline: 800-696-1000.

(Continued on page 2)

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