December 24, 2013

Thousands lose power in Augusta area

Heavy limbs crash through power lines, challenging power crews to keep up.

By Keith Edwards
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — More than 21,000 homes in Kennebec County and more than 92,000 across the state lost power Monday as trees and power lines fell victim to the increasing weight of nearly an inch of ice accumulated over multiple days of freezing precipitation.

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Photo by Jeff Pouland CLEARING THE WAY: A plow truck works to clear the northbound lane of Interstate 95 in Augusta during Monday's storm.

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Photo by Jeff Pouland THICK ICE: A thick coating of ice clings to a tree outside the Maine State Library in Augusta during Monday's storm.

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With outage reports climbing, Central Maine Power crews focused Monday night, not on restoring power, but on making sure downed lines are no longer electrified and are as safe as possible.

“As long as we’re in the impact phase, as we are, with calls still coming in, our focus is to make sure any downed lines are de-energized,” said John Carroll, a spokesman for CMP. “That’s what we’re going to do first. There is some restoration going on. But our real emphasis is on public safety.”

Carroll said if CMP customers don’t have power Monday night, they probably won’t have it back on until Tuesday.

He said the outages will be assessed overnight and the company should have a better idea Tuesday of whether some customers could be without power for a second or third night.

Power lines or branches on fire were reported at several locations in central Maine, though none appeared to have caused larger fires.

Firefighters, utility crews, police, and plow and sand truck drivers struggled to keep up with the damage caused by the storm.

Forecasters originally thought the storm would end Sunday night, but it dragged on and could create added problems through Christmas Day and into the weekend.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Mike Kistner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.

Added moisture on Monday will be followed by a deep freeze and strong winds, with gusts of up to 25 mph.

Three-quarters of an inch of ice accumulated over the weekend, and that amount was expected to increase to nearly an inch by the end of the day on Monday, more than any other region in the state.

Carroll said CMP got a weather forecast Monday morning that indicated the state could have a band of weather, including Lewiston, Augusta, Rockland and up the coast to Castine, where there would be a high probability for more icing.

“It was a confluence of just the right temperature, the temperature of the rainfall, and the rain falling at the right pace,” Carroll said of why outages spiked up Monday, one day after the initially projected peak of the storm. “Ice storms are fickle things. You have to have just the right conditions.”

While much of the state was warming up, temperatures remained below freezing in Waterville and Augusta, with readings in the high 20s on Monday afternoon.

The freezing temperatures are expected to last until at least the end of the weekend, creating continued problems.

“The ice isn’t going to go anywhere out of the trees for quite some time,” Kistner said.

Temperatures are expected to be in the 20s or high teens Tuesday. On Wednesday — Christmas Day — Kistner said he was expecting a low of zero degrees.

“It’s kind of hard to treat the roads when they’re that cold,” he said.

The early stages of the storm weren’t as bad as initially expected Sunday because a cold front hadn’t yet made it to the region.

“When the bulk of the moisture came through yesterday, a lot of areas weren’t even below freezing yet,” he said. “A lot of area to the southwest just fell as plain rain.”

In downtown Augusta, Larry Fleury was at his Water Street home, preparing for a Christmas party for his real estate management company’s employees Monday afternoon when he heard a pop pop pop that sounded like gunshots.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Photo by Jeff Pouland ICE WORK: Pine Tree Veterinary Hospital employees Shannon Clements, left, and Denise Nadeau work to clear their parking lot of thick ice at the clinic located off Western Avenue in Augusta on Monday. "I remember '98. I can live without that, " said Nadeau. Though this ice storm wasn't as bad as the one in '98, it still caused a lot of headaches for residents of central Maine.

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Photo by Jeff Pouland BREAKING IT UP: Clinton Coutts of the Bureau of General Services works to clear ice near an entrance to the State House in Augusta during Monday's storm.


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