Mainers spent Friday cleaning up, assessing damage and wondering when the lights would come back on, a day after a powerful storm tore up the East Coast and through Maine.

Winds along the coast neared 70 mph Thursday night, toppling trees, snapping utility poles, dropping power lines and cutting power to thousands of homes.

Some towns recorded rain in excess of 8 inches, while others, in western Maine’s mountains, got more than a half-foot of snow.

Many schoolchildren got a rare non-snow day off Friday. Officials said they were concerned about children walking to schools or bus stops in neighborhoods that were littered with trees, limbs and possibly live power lines.

Central Maine Power Co. said more than 133,000 customers had lost power by Friday morning. Crews spent most of the hours around dawn making sure that critical facilities – hospitals, nursing homes, potential shelters – had power, then doing “make safe” work by cutting off power to downed lines or wires that were weighed down by trees.

The company said the storm took out 140 power poles, which are the most time-consuming to replace, rewire and re-energize.

Gail Rice, a CMP spokeswoman, said the utility had reduced the number of customers without power to 79,000 by 10 p.m. Friday.

“We hope to make a really big push (today) and Sunday as well,” she said.

She said the utility couldn’t promise that everyone would have power by the end of the weekend, and noted that damage was still being assessed Friday afternoon.

York County was hardest hit, with more than 26,000 homes and businesses still without power Friday night. There were 21,000 homes and businesses in Cumberland County without power. Sagadahoc County had about 12,000 homes and businesses without power, according to CMP.

Taking advantage of clear and calmer weather Friday, CMP used helicopters to survey its major power lines to determine where damage had occurred and how best to fix it.

The utility was getting help from crews from New Brunswick and Massachusetts, and expected to have others from as far away as Michigan and Florida arriving this weekend.

Nearby states also provided some crews, but Rice noted that the storm hit the East Coast hard from Virginia north, and many utilities in the Northeast were struggling to maintain their own systems.

The strength of the storm was astonishing to some.

It left Bob Hack of Cousins Island in Yarmouth staring up at a bizarre entanglement that had been his roof. A huge pine snapped off in the night and crashed onto his house on Wharf Road.

Three large branches punctured the ceiling about 12:30 a.m., not far from where his elderly father slept. Blown-in insulation poured into the room, and Hack had to fashion a makeshift tent in the living room to keep the rain out.

“Right at the end of the storm, we got a violent blast that came through,” he said. “It sounded like it had stopped, but all of a sudden it was like a train was coming through.”

The storm washed out roads, and by the end of Friday, more than 100 were still closed in York County, said Rick Davis, assistant director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency.

Davis said the storm washed out the road beds of some streets, knocked down power poles and tossed rocks up on roads near beaches. The University of New England lost power Thursday night and moved students from the dorms to the gym. Power was restored to the campus Friday.

“We have a lot of things to fix and we’ll have people without power for a bit of time,” Davis said, but county officials hope that most people without electricity in York County will be reconnected by the end of the weekend.

The officials noted that the exceptions could be isolated homes, because utility crews concentrate first on repairing major lines that can restore power to hundreds of customers before moving to individual outages.

The York County Emergency Management Agency said shelters for those without power were set up at Marshwood High School and the Saco Community Center. The Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk was taking in pets for the weekend.

The wind severely damaged a Maine Public Broadcasting Network radio tower on Ragged Mountain in Camden, knocking the network’s Camden-based station off the air.

The station, WMEP (90.5 FM), will be down for an undetermined period of time, said Gil Maxwell, chief technology officer.

Maxwell said the antenna was knocked to the ground, and his “best guess” is that it will take two weeks to repair.

A statement on MPBN’s Web  site suggested that WMEP listeners try picking up MPBN stations in Portland (WMEA, 90.1 FM) or Bangor (WMEH, 90.9 FM), depending on where they live.

Shelters were being opened in Wiscasset, Bremen, Dresden and Boothbay for those without power in the midcoast.

Emergency officials in Cumberland County activated CityWatch notifications in Harpswell and on Chebeague Island.

Using an automated message delivered by telephone, the sheriff’s office advised residents of Harpswell to seek assistance at an American Red Cross shelter at 16 Community Way in Topsham. It advised residents of Chebeague Island to watch for downed power lines and report them to the fire department.

Also in Cumberland County, the storm shut down major commuter routes, including Route 302 in Westbrook, which was closed when the Presumpscot River started lapping at the underside of a bridge.

By the afternoon, that road was reopened and fewer than a dozen major roads remained closed, said Anne-Marie Brett, deputy director of the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” she said.

Staff Writers David Hench, Ray Routhier, John Richardson and Bob Keyes contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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