August 30, 2011

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Bernard Hallowell and his wife, Kim, survey the damage Monday to their Monmouth home after it was struck by a tree Sunday during Tropical Storm Irene. The couple and their dog escaped injury.

CMP: 135,000 lacking power

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

MONMOUTH -- Power remains out to many in central Maine today as homeowners and utility crews spent a sunny, breezy Monday cleaning up from Tropical Storm Irene.

Sunday's storm saw roads wash out and trees fall onto power lines. Many Mainers prepared to endure Monday night -- and perhaps much longer -- without electricity.

They are the lucky ones.

A Monmouth couple lost their Academy Road home when a massive tree crashed through the roof of the century-old two-story home Sunday.

Splintered trunks, broken branches and leaves littered Bernard and Kim Hallowell's driveway as they waited for a response from their insurance agent Monday. No one was injured.

Indeed, authorities noted no storm-related casualties at all in Maine. Gov. Paul LePage toured hard-hit areas near Carabasssett Valley by helicopter Monday before flying to Phillips and Rumford, where roads also were closed because of flooding.

"The damage in some of these areas is devastating, and once we evaluate the financial loss we will see if Maine is eligible for federal disaster assistance," LePage said.

The damage to the Hallowells' home in Monmouth appeared to be among the most serious local effects of Irene.

But the aftermath continued Monday night and into today, in the form of flooding and stubborn power outages.

The Kennebec River was expected to rise by Monday evening to nearly 17 feet at Augusta before falling below flood stage today, according to a flood warning issued Monday by the National Weather Service in Gray.

Gardiner police warned that Cobbosseecontee Stream might flood into The Arcade parking lot between 8 p.m. and midnight Monday, and asked motorists to be alert and move their vehicles if necessary.

Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason said officers had begun a storm damage assessment then began warning property owners about the potential for flooding along the east side of Front Street and in the rear of some downtown buildings. Sections of Second Street and Summer Street were closed Monday afternoon because of trees tangled in electrical lines.

Nason said he asked Central Maine Power Company to turn off the power to the area so a cleanup could begin.The biggest impact of the storm -- by far -- was the loss of power. CMP estimated 183,000 customers were powerless at 9 a.m. Monday.

That number dropped to 135,000 customers as of 3 p.m. Monday, including many in CMP's Augusta service area.

Adding Bangor Hydro customers, more than 200,000 Mainers -- about one in six -- were without power at some point Sunday or Monday.

"Hopefully, the numbers will continue declining," John Carroll, CMP spokesman, said Monday afternoon.

"That's a big storm," he said. "It's certainly bigger than anything we had in the past couple of years."

The company estimated that more than 275,000 accounts were affected as the storm passed along the western edge of the company's service area Sunday.

"CMP warns customers that the restoration work is likely take several days or more," a statement from the utility said.

More than 400 technicians and engineers were working to restore cable service for Time Warner across Maine and New Hampshire, where the company reported 80,000 customers without service.The destruction at the Hallowells' home attracted much attention from customers at the Monmouth Kwik Shop, just across Academy Street.

The family has occupied the two-story, three-bedroom for about five years, Kim Hallowell said.

She, her husband and their Siberian husky, Ripple, were sitting out back in the two-car garage when a wave of branches fell to the driveway, striking the black 1985 Monte Carlo SS that Bernard Hallowell had restored.

"I told her, 'I think out house is gone,'" Bernard Hallowell said.

The tree fell across the house, slicing through the roof into their second-floor bedroom and pinning utility lines to the house.

Removing the tree will be difficult. Bernard Hallowell measured the base at 18 1/2 feet around.

"They're going to have to get a crane," he said.

He said he took a quick peek inside his home after the tree came down, and is unsure what they can salvage.

"Most everything we want is in our bedroom, and that's where the tree hit," he said.

The couple stayed Sunday night with friends in Leeds.

Kim Hallowell, 42, who works in the business office of MaineGeneral Rehabilitation at Gray Birch, said she planned to stay home Monday. Bernard Hallowell, 48, is self-employed. They say they will rebuild.

Kelly Brooks, of Winthrop, and Kristy Vickerson, of North Monmouth, Kim Hallowell's sisters, came over to commiserate and assist.

As they talked, everyone's eyes stayed on damaged home.

At the other end of Academy Road, close to U.S. Route 202, a utility pole was snapped, with the top half hanging from wires. Orange cones blocked one lane until utility crews could arrive to place the pole.

The scene was familiar in parts of central Maine, as was the thrum of generators working to keep some homes or at least some appliances powered.

Power Equipment Plus in Sidney sold out two batches of generators -- including the ones that arrived late Saturday. Owners Christine and Randy Violette were trying to get more from Honda.

Christine Violette, who owns the store with her husband, said many of the customers are retirees living on Great Pond and Long Pond in Belgrade.

Along with generators, they were purchasing chain saws and pole saws.

"They must be cleaning up," she said.

Litchfield Fire Chief Stan Labbe called in firefighters to patrol the roads Sunday evening and try to keep them open, a practice in many rural towns.

"When we went home at midnight, nine roads were blocked because of trees on wires or wires down," he said.

Utility crews had restored power to Libby-Tozier School by noon Monday. School is scheduled to start today.

Freshmen orientation day was postponed until today at Oak Hill High School in Regional School Unit 4 -- Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales.

The high school building in Wales had no electricity, according to a message at the school.

A workshop day at Monmouth Academy for Regional School Unit 2 -- Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Monmouth and Richmond -- is reset for today.

At Hannaford supermarket in Winthrop, customers stocked up prior to the storm by buying all the D-cell batteries and almost all the one-gallon containers of water, a store employee said. Shelves were being restocked Monday.

Lights flickered at the MaineGeneral Medical Center facility in Augusta but the hospital did not lose power, according to spokeswoman Diane Peterson.

The hospital's Thayer campus in Waterville lost power for about 1-1/2 hours.

The Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in north Augusta lost power and continued to have outages as the power company turned the power on and off to fix outages, said Chuck Hays, the hospital's president and chief executive officer. The outpatient center was running on backup generators as of Monday afternoon.

Several families people and their pets spent Sunday night at the Wiscasset Community Center, which is a pet-friendly shelter.

"The pets were segregated in their own kennels, and one of the owners of the pets slept there," said Paul Parker, a volunteer with the American Red Cross, who was assisting at the shelter Monday.

He said a handful of people remained there around noon Monday -- mostly Wiscasset residents waiting for their electricity to be restored.

The community center offers shows, and a gym as well as other amenities.

"I heard from the rescue chief that they anticipate power to Wiscasset will be restored by the end of the day," Parker said, adding, "We'll be open as long as people need us."

Jason Feugill, of 1-800 Water Damage in Augusta, said his firm responded to help pump out some basements that flooded when the electricity was cut off and sump pumps quit working.

The firm also assisted with some debris removal n the Winslow, Augusta and Gardiner areas, he said.

The storm was accompanied by 3.5 inches of rain, according to spotter reports made to the National Weather Service office in Gray.

Unofficial observations from Kennebec Journal Weather Spotters to 6 p.m. Sunday showed 3.2 inches of rain fell in Wayne, 2.6 inches in Sidney, 2.2 inches in Augusta, 2 inches in Chelsea, 1.7 inches in Randolph and Whitefield, and 1.6 inches in Litchfield.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Betty Adams -- 621-5631

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Central Maine Power employees Spencer Provost, right, and Mark Jacques climb Monday over a tree limb tangled in utility lines in Farmingdale. Widespread power outages resulted from Tropical Storm Irene.

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