Maine officials will seek a disaster declaration in the wake of the powerful wind and rainstorm that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the state.

As state emergency management officials gather data to support the request for money that could help home and business owners cover their expenses from storm damage, the state’s two largest power companies continue to reduce the number of outages reported across Maine.

Federal assistance could help Mainers pay expenses not covered by their insurance policies, and state officials encouraged residents and business owners to take photos of damage – including food that spoiled – and keep receipts for repairs.

At the peak of outages, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine reported a combined 484,000 customers without power. Central Maine Power had reduced the number of its outages by about 85 percent by Thursday night, according to the company’s website.

As of 10:53 p.m., CMP was reporting 55,720 customers without power, down from a peak of 404,000 outages. In Cumberland County, 9,026 customers remained without power, while 4,007 outages were reported in York County.

Sara Burns, president and CEO of CMP, said crews are working around the clock.

“We’re making extraordinary progress,” she said. “We’re reducing the number (of outages) by 100,000 a day. As we get closer to the end, we have the harder work to do. We’re on rural roads. We may have to use four or five bucket trucks to fix one customer.”

MORE THAN 2,300 WORKING ON PROBLEM

Emera Maine reported 12,312 customers without power at 1:05 a.m. Friday, down from more than 90,000 outages reported shortly after Monday’s storm whipped through the state, toppling trees and downing power lines.

Both power companies anticipate restoring service to the majority of customers by the end of the day Saturday.

Burns said more than 2,300 people were working to restore power Thursday, including crews from several states and Canada.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency on Thursday asked residents to stay away from working line crews and said CMP has requested that no one give its employees gifts.

There are still no overall cost estimates of the damage caused by the storm.

Pete Rogers, acting deputy director of MEMA, said his agency is compiling the paperwork and data needed to show losses and damage of at least $1.9 million so the state can qualify for grants and loans from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Counties would need to meet individual limits to qualify for aid.

Rogers said the photos of damage and receipts for repairs will be needed to file claims if money becomes available to help individuals and businesses.

If homeowners cannot afford repairs, they should contact their town’s General Assistance office, he said.

Bob and Pat Gammon of Belgrade will have some receipts to hold onto.

Five 75-foot pines toppled onto the lawn of their house on Manchester Road, taking out part of a deck railing and scoring a direct hit on the cab of their 2016 Ford 150 extended-cab pickup.

Bob Gammon had just left for work in his wife’s Hyundai Santa Fe at about 6:30 a.m. Monday when the trees crashed with a loud thud onto the spot where the car had been parked.

“I had gone back to bed,” Pat Gammon said. “I heard pine cones hitting the windows.”

Despite the damage to the house and car, Bob Gammon marveled at his good fortune.

“I could have been coming out here and those trees could have come down,” he said Thursday, surveying the scene as Deep Root Tree Service of Farmington worked to uncover his truck and clear the trees.

Passing motorists slowed to gawk at the Gammons’ yard, craning to see the house partially obscured by the wall of earth attached to the upturned roots.

“The Lord was with us,” Pat Gammon said.

MAKING UP LOST SCHOOL DAYS

The last time Maine applied for and was granted assistance from FEMA was following a blizzard in 2015, Rogers said. State and local governments were reimbursed for about $48 million in losses from the 1998 ice storm, which has been compared to Monday’s storm in terms of its impact on the state. According to MEMA, individuals or businesses received $6.5 million in government grants and loans after the storm in January 1998, which cut power to more than half of the state’s homes, in some cases for weeks, and hundreds of millions of dollars were paid out by private insurers.

Current recipients of benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called SNAP, may qualify for replacement benefits following the power outages. If recipients had an extended loss of power and lost food bought with food stamps, they can apply for supplemental benefits equal to the amount lost, but not more than their monthly benefit. To request a form, call 855-797-4357.

Many schools across the state had lost two or more days from their calendars and calls to a handful Thursday indicated that they planned to treat them like snow days that will have to be made up.

However, one district, Fairfield-based School Administrative District 49, said it planned to seek a waiver from the Maine Department of Education. Should additional days off be required, the district would consider making time up by increasing the length of school days or having makeup days on weekends, Superintendent of Schools Dean Baker said.

More than 90 shelters across the state are offering residents a variety of services including food in some places, charging for electronic devices, hot showers and a warm place to stay. A complete list along with services offered is available at the MEMA website. Residents can also call 211 for more information about shelters and warming centers.

With material from the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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