December 27, 2013

Central Maine Power working to restore power by late Friday evening

Residents in Kennebec, Lincoln and Waldo counties still without power.

By Michael Shepherd
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Power outage numbers were up and down Friday morning, but Central Maine Power Co. hopes to restore power to nearly all customers by late evening.

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ICE OUT: Asplundh Tree Expert Co arborist Randy Patten descends between frozen power lines Wednesday in Farmingdale after clearing limbs away from utility poles. Several hundred out-of-state utility and tree workers arrived in Kennebec County Tuesday and Wednesday to restore power. Patten traveled from Vermont with fellow arborist Ray Coutu to remove fallen branches overhanging hazardous power lines. “You do what you got to do to help people,” Patten said. “Particularly on Christmas.”

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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RESTORED: Richard Lee greets lineman Gabriel Attale with a thumbs up Thursday as electrical power is restored at Lee’s Wayne farmhouse. Attale traveled to Maine with crews of Pennsylvania-based electric contractor MBI Mirarchi Brothers to help fix power lines broken by the ice storm Christmas week. Lee and his neighbors have been without power since Monday.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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The company reported 6,451 outages at 11 a.m. but was back up to 8,401 at 11:30. Most were in three counties: 3,234 in Kennebec, 2,180 in Lincoln and 1,877 in Waldo.

In a news release, CMP said crews are working to restore service to all “accessible buildings” and year-round customers by late Friday evening. Some roads remain blocked by downed trees or other barriers, CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said, and it may take longer to restore service in those areas.

Despite several inches of snow that fell Thursday, CMP hit its target to reduce outages to fewer than 10,000 by Thursday evening.

A peak of about 87,000 CMP customers lacked power on Tuesday morning, and an estimated 123,000 have lost power at least once since 1 a.m. Monday, midway through the two-day ice storm.

Fresh snow fell Thursday as Pennsylvania-based utility crews jammed Richmond Mills Road near a rural four-way intersection, getting ready to power the line leading to Richard Lee’s home, blacked out since Monday.

Lee had been running generators to power his refrigerator and lights when he had to, but the wood stove inside kept the old farmhouse on Walton Road warm enough. For him, lack of power was an annoyance, but nothing more.

“I could move to Florida, then you’d just have tsunamis or something,” Lee said.

“Nothing happens here,” he joked. “Nothing.”

But the ice storm that hit Maine Sunday and Monday was a rare event.

Power had been restored to most, but not all, in heavily populated areas like Augusta, Gardiner and Hallowell by Friday morning. Hundreds were still blacked out in the more rural towns of Litchfield, Monmouth, Wayne and Winthrop.

Even those without power in the Augusta area are luckier than those north and east — Bangor Hydro, the main utility in northern and eastern Maine, said that in Down East’s Hancock County, everyone may not be back on line until the end of the day Wednesday. Power to many in Penobscot and Washington counties likely won’t be restored until Saturday evening.

Many people spent Christmas Day in the dark or at local warming centers or shelters, many of which were closed in central Maine on Thursday.

Power crews also worked through the holiday, and on Thursday, the Red Barn, a seafood restaurant on Riverside Drive in Augusta, announced it would feed utility crews and tree crews free of charge until restoration work is done.

Statewide, 19 warming centers and emergency shelters were open Thursday afternoon, including the Augusta Warming Center on Water Street and the Winthrop Ambulance Base on Old Western Avenue.

Storm-related emergency calls slowed in many areas on Thursday, and Richard Beausoleil, director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency, was off work after what he called “six days of hell.” Early in the storm, the county’s roads were littered with downed trees and fires sparked on utility poles.

Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said county emergency agencies are keeping track of the cost incurred in the response to the storm in case the state opts to apply for federal disaster funding later on.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed off on a $48 million appropriation to four states, including Maine, which got $25 million after a two-week ice storm. The storm caused six deaths in Maine, damaging more than 11 million acres. Each of the state’s 16 counties was declared disaster areas.

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Additional Photos

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SAFE AND SOUND: Susan Stevenson holds her granddaughter, Hannah, 1, as she waves with her sister, Hadley, 3, at their father, Tom, and grandfather, Ford, on Thursday at the family’s farm in Wayne. Stevenson’s Strawberries has been receiving electricity from a generator powered by a tractor and heating with wood since Monday.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy


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