As superstorm Sandy subsided Tuesday morning, Maine emergency officials and residents began to assess the damage while travelers dealt with continued fallout from the storm.
As of 10:15 a.m., power outages in Maine totaled 88,581, including 84,978 Central Maine Power customers and 3,603 Bangor Hydro Electric Co. customers.
Bangor Hydro warned that some people might not get their electricity back until Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
For Michael Gordon of Wells, the damage – and his mortality – were apparent. Gordon was in the bedroom of his Canterbury Road home around 1 a.m. Tuesday when the branch of a pine tree punctured the ceiling, narrowly missing him.
“I’m laying in bed and I could hear the cracking. I rolled out of bed just as the branch came through,” Gordon said. “The sheetrock was blowing all over me.” Water, too, poured through the opening in the ceiling, soaking the floor.
The Wells Fire Department called CMP crews to the house to remove the pine tree because it had fallen across power lines connected to the house.
The branch remains impaled through the roof of the house and the bedroom carpet is strewn with pieces of wood and tufts of fiberglass insulation.
Gordon’s front yard is still covered with pieces of the tree and the twisted remnants of his flagpole.
In the Portland area, flights from the Portland International Jetport were still canceled on Tuesday morning, though there are no problems specifically in Portland.
“The jetport itself, we’re in fine shape,” said Bob Rothbart, who works in the airport’s communications center. “The runways, everything is open, but like everything else on the East Coast, the airlines took their airplanes and sent them to safe places.”
Regularly scheduled flights are not expected to resume until about 11:25 a.m. and even then there could be major delays well into the afternoon. Travelers are urged to contact their airline for flight-specific information.
The Amtrak Downeaster has canceled all trains for Tuesday. An official said the railroad will monitor conditions to determine when service can resume. Plans to celebrate the inaugural run to Freeport and Brunswick on Thursday are unaffected.
York emergency dispatchers reported several roads closed because of trees downing wires, with extensive power outages.
“We were on a generator all night but we just got power back here,” said Nathaniel Higgins, at the York dispatch center.
Emergency management officials in York County said that besides some road closures and power outages, there was little damage.
“Overall, we got out of it pretty lucky, all things considered,” said Steve Harding, spokesman for the York County Emergency Management Agency.
In Cumberland County, Anne-Marie Brett, deputy director of the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency, said that as day broke people would get a better idea of the extent of the storm damage, though it appeared minimal.
“We’ve had no major reports overnight of any extreme problems,” Brett said.
“There’s lots of notification of some wires down, some trees down, but very few complete road closures so that in a way is good for us,” Brett said. “We have seen the number of outages go down over night and now they’re starting to come up which is to be expected.”
County and state emergency management directors planned to hold a conference call at 9 a.m. to assess damage throughout the state and determine the extent of damage.
The worst of superstorm Sandy brought 25-foot waves, winds over 60 mph overnight and a blackout that affected tens of thousands of people.
A gust of 76 mph was recorded Monday night at a home weather station in Bath, according to the National Weather Service in Gray. That exceeded the forecasted high wind speed of 60 mph.
The predicted rainfall of 1 to 3 inches in southern Maine never came. Only 0.56 inches had fallen in Portland as of 11 p.m.
“Basically, the rainfall was not the story. It was the wind,” said Mike Kistner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
He said the wind was expected to start subsiding by Tuesday morning. The day’s forecast calls for light showers and windy conditions.
AT CAMP ELLIS, ‘UNBELIEVABLE’ WIND
People walking on Old Orchard Beach said they were surprised how little debris washed up on the sand. Near the Pier, Irwin Merrill of Westbrook used a metal detector and shovel to search piles of seaweed.
“It’s just a lot of seaweed so far,” he said.
Scott and Jennifer Provencher of Old Orchard Beach walked the beach with their children, 5-year-old Riley and Vivienne, 2. Riley hopped on top of a log to pose for photos as waves crashed under the Pier behind him.
Jennifer Provencher said she was surprised there wasn’t more debris, but was grateful power stayed on throughout the storm.
At Higgins Beach in Scarborough, sightseers and dog-walkers enjoyed the high surf just after sunrise. The storm tossed seaweed and driftwood up on Bayview Avenue and a seawall was partly eroded at one end of Higgins Beach, but there was little damage otherwise.
The storm’s biggest impact was on electrical service. As of 10:15 a.m., power outages in Maine totaled 88,581, including 84,978 Central Maine Power customers and 3,603 Bangor Hydro Electric Co. customers. There were extensive outages in York County and areas of Cumberland County, particularly Gorham and Windham.
PORTLAND AREA ESCAPES SERIOUS DAMAGE
The city of Portland fared the storm without major problems, Nicole Clegg, the city’s spokeswoman, said on Tuesday.
She said there was flooding in the Bayside neighborhood along Marginal Way at high tide around midnight, but it was not severe. The storm also knocked down a couple of utility poles on Washington Avenue Ext. and Riverside Drive, she said.
State police and Cumberland County emergency dispatchers reported no storm-related injuries overnight.
“We actually lucked out I think,” said Erin Pelletier, a dispatcher with the Cumberland County Regional Communications Center. “None of the main roads are closed. It’s just the side streets that didn’t take priority.”
Crews worked through the night to reopen major commuter routes like River Road in Windham, which had been closed for downed trees and wires, she said.
“The storm has been pretty much what we expected,” said McAleer, who was at the Emergency Operations Center in Augusta on Monday night with staffers from other state and federal agencies. “There have been no surprises yet, but I won’t relax until noon (Tuesday).”
AT CAMP ELLIS, ‘UNBELIEVABLE’ WIND
At Camp Ellis Tuesday morning, Mike Otazo stood alone at the end of Lower Beach Road as the sun rose Tuesday morning over Camp Ellis.
After a windy night in his house near the ocean, he was curious to see what daylight would reveal.
“I wanted to wake up and see a hurricane sunrise,” he said.
Otazo never lost power in this seaside neighborhood in Saco, but he said the wind was “unbelievable.”
“It sounded like my windows were going to bust out,” he said.
There was some sand and seaweed left behind on Lower Beach Road by water that splashed over the sea wall, but nothing out of the ordinary after a big storm, Otazo said. A sign lay twisted at the end of the street.
On Main Avenue, Camp Ellis resident Linnea Olsen walked her two dogs, a cup of coffee in hand. She said she could hear the ocean from her home Monday night, which is unusual.
“It was roaring pretty hard,” she said. “I think we were very, very fortunate we were spared.”
Early Tuesday, roads to Camp Ellis were still barricaded to vehicle traffic. Piles of sand covered the intersection of Main and North avenues, but there was no visible flooding or damage. By 10 a.m, the roads had reopened.
On the beach at end of Fairhaven avenue in Saco, a giant protective sand bag ruptured, allowing water to flow up the street and some of the boulders providing protection from the surf washed away.
A few miles inland in Buxton, Timberline Country Store was open and running on a generator in an area of town that has been without power since Monday evening. A steady stream of people stopped in for coffee and breakfast sandwiches on their way to work before dawn.
LEPAGE DECLARES EMERGENCY
Gov. Paul LePage declared a state of emergency on Monday that authorized state agencies to use all available resources and personnel to cope with the emergency.
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.
LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said that support was declined because other states don’t have fully operational emergency operation centers and will need the support more than Maine, although she couldn’t identify the states.
Jeremy Damren, spokesman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said all New England states have emergency operation centers. Maine’s center has members of state agencies who offer resources for state, county and local officials as requested in emergencies.
They usually work with county emergency directors, Damren said.
Robert McAleer, director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency. said the state emergency agency was in contact with FEMA and would ask for assistance if the need arises, but he didn’t anticipate it.
At a news conference on Monday, LePage emphasized the importance of not touching downed power lines or operating generators inside buildings.
“Basically, it’s using a lot of common sense,” he said.
TRANSPORTATION SERVICES HALTED
The powerful storm affected everything from public transportation to boat traffic in Portland Harbor to the state’s clam digging industry.
The Coast Guard closed the Port of Portland to boat traffic around 5 p.m. Monday. That forced Casco Bay Lines to suspend service, with its last ferry leaving Portland at 5:45 p.m. for the outer islands such as Long Island and Great Diamond.
Service had resumed by Tuesday morning.
The Amtrak Downeaster canceled Monday’s afternoon and evening train service from Boston and Portland. It also canceled all of Tuesday’s runs from Boston and Portland.
Amtrak trains are canceled because of power outages in New Hampshire, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. Without power, crossing lights and barriers don;t work, so trains have to go slow and conductors have to manually flag them through the road crossings, she said.
“We didn’t want to have people get on and four hours from now we’ll get you to Boston,” Quinn said. “At this point in time we just don’t think we can be reliable at all,” she said.
“If power comes on during the course of the day, we may run later in the day, but we didn’t want people to plan on us not be able to rely on us,” Quinn said.
At the Portland Jetport, Candy and Don Gagnon of Gardiner, were on their way to Fort Myers, Florida for a vacation. They arrived two and half hours early, because they feared the jetport would be mobbed with people.
“We thought it might be crazy,” Don Gagnon said. “It looks like a ghost town.”
With no lines, and few airline staff even, there was little urgency. “Now we’re going to go read,” he said.
Paul Bradbury, director of the Portland International Jetport, said Monday the final flights, to Atlanta and Chicago, took off early Monday and no other flights would take place for the rest of the day. Most flights from 5:30 to 7 a.m. Tuesday had already been canceled.
“The aircraft will not be where they need to be, as the mid-Atlantic area is expected to have disruptions,” Bradbury said.
He said a large percentage of air traffic in and out of Portland connects with airports in New York City and Washington, D.C., two of the areas hit hardest by Sandy.
Power lines and trees fell on roads throughout southern Maine, causing traffic delays, but no storm-related injuries were reported.
The state Department of Marine Resources closed clam flats along the coast as of midnight Monday, citing stormwater runoff from heavy rains that could pollute flats. State officials will evaluate the situation Tuesday before deciding whether to reopen clam flats.
COASTAL AREAS HIT BY SURGE
Coastal areas were hit particularly hard.
The town of Wells advised residents to evacuate homes and businesses in coastal and low-lying areas east of Route 1.
Town Manager Jon Carter said the evacuation was “extremely voluntary.” Most people, he said, were choosing to stay.
“We’re just trying to make people cognizant of the storm. If they are uncomfortable, they should think about beginning to move to a safer location,” Carter said. “Most people are watching TV. When the power goes out, they’ll lose their security blanket pretty quickly and things may change.”
At Camp Ellis in Saco, the Kopenga family prepared to evacuate to stay with relatives in Biddeford. “I’m not taking any chances,” said Denise Kopenga.
Dana and Marie Vigue decided to ride out the storm in the home they bought just two months ago. “Every once in a while, the house shakes,” said Marie Vigue.
Waves crashed over stone and sand barriers and workers put down sandbags to prevent flooding in driveways.
Sightseers in Saco and Old Orchard Beach pulled their coats over their heads to shield themselves from stinging sand that the wind hurled at them.
“The noon high tide wasn’t too damaging. To be honest, we had more trouble with (onlooker) traffic than nature,” said Saco Police Chief Brad Paul. “Our shorefront people are pretty tough and they did a good job of preparing themselves.”
The Brunswick, a bar in Old Orchard Beach, is usually closed on Mondays, but opened under pressure from regulars, said owner Tom LeCasse. About a dozen people sat around the bar Monday afternoon, watching the ocean and talking about storms of the past.
“I’m just hoping the awning doesn’t come off,” said Shannon Trudeau as The Brunswick’s awning strained in the wind.
John Glass, Old Orchard Beach’s fire chief, said The Pier, near the town’s amusement park and downtown, was holding up well despite taking a pounding.
SOME SCHOOLS, COLLEGES CLOSE
With the weather deteriorating as the day went on, many schools announced early closures.
Portland schools let students leave an hour earlier than usual. There was no word late Monday night on whether students would return to classes Tuesday.
The University of Southern Maine, the University of New England, Southern Maine Community College and Saint Joseph’s College all canceled classes and activities for Monday afternoon and evening.
Robert Caswell, spokesman for USM, said the decision on when classes resume would have to be made Tuesday morning.
At the Freeport Irving station Monday morning, Leslie Shea filled gas jugs to fuel her generator. “All my kids are excited about not having school,” she said.
Shea said her home on Desert Road loses power routinely in storms, and the family was without power for more than two weeks after the ice storm of 1998. “That’s why we got the generator,” Shea said.
Kate Beatty eyed the generators at Ace Hardware in Yarmouth.
“We’ve been meaning to get one anyway. No time like the present,” Beatty said. “Hopefully, we won’t need it. Hopefully, we can return it unused.”
Jennifer Favreau, manager of Lowe’s on Brighton Avenue in Portland, said the store had been busy with people looking for flashlights, batteries, tarps and water. The store was sold out of generators and Favreau did not know when more would be in stock.
POLITICAL EVENTS CANCELED
Sandy even disrupted political campaigns in Maine, eight days before Election Day.
The Maine Democratic Party canceled campaign work and events for Monday evening. The party’s campaign office in York lost power in the afternoon, and party leaders decided to cancel get-out-the-vote events around the state so volunteers would not have to travel to central phone banks, said spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt.
WCSH-TV went ahead with its U.S. Senate candidates debate at 7 p.m. as scheduled. WMTW, however, postponed its televised debate scheduled for Tuesday evening. It will be held Friday.
Staff writers David Hench, Gillian Graham and Jessica Hall contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: