December 24, 2013

Cold, dark Christmas in store for many Mainers

About 100,000 were without power early Tuesday, and it could be days before electricity is restored to all.

By Dennis Hoey and Jessica Hall / Staff Writers

The state’s largest power companies say it could take them several days to restore electricity to all of the tens of thousands of customers who lost it in a two-day ice storm that hit hard in central and eastern Maine.

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Andrew Powers, an arborist with Asplundh Tree Experts, clears power lines from iced-over branches along Mayflower Heights Drive in Waterville on Monday.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

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Charles Winslow clears ice off of his car in Lewiston on Sunday. Ice build-up on tree limbs brought down power lines in northern New England, leaving thousands of homes and business in Vermont and Maine without electricity.

The Associated Press / Amber Waterman, Sun Journal

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As the storm wound down late Monday, Central Maine Power Co. and Bangor Hydro Electric Co. reported that close to 100,000 customers were without power just before midnight.

At 10 p.m., John Carroll, a spokesman for CMP, said more than 79,000 customers had reported losing power. At 5 a.m. Tuesday that number was still hovering around 79,000.

Carroll said Lincoln, Hancock and Knox counties were the hardest hit in CMP’s coverage area.

Based on the locations of the outages, Carroll said the ice storm, which started Sunday, cut a 40-mile swath through CMP’s service area, from Lewiston to Belfast. Kennebec County appeared to be at the center of the storm, with more than 31,000 reported outages.

By comparison, he said, the infamous ice storm of 1998 left about 275,000 CMP customers in the dark.

Southern Maine was largely unaffected by this week’s storm, which made sidewalks slick but had left just 563 CMP customers in Cumberland County without power by 11:30 p.m. Monday. No outages were reported in York County on Monday night.

Carroll was cautious about predicting when power might be restored.

“Realistically, yes, some customers will be without power on Christmas,” he said. “It will be a multi-day restoration effort.”

Bangor Hydro Electric was in no better shape. Just over 21,000 of its customers were without power at 11:50 p.m. Monday, and by 4 a.m. Tuesday, the number had risen to more than 30,000, according to the Associated Press. Washington and Hancock counties had widespread power outages.

The company posted a statement on its website describing the damage the ice storm caused.

“The weight of the ice on power lines and nearby trees in contact with them brought down lines, broke poles, and caused widespread damage,” the statement said. “Field crews are reporting scenes, especially in Washington County, reminiscent of the Ice Storm of ’98.”

The company said its “full resources are committed to the massive restoration effort,” but “due to the extensive damage some customers will likely be without power until midday Friday.”

Bangor Hydro Electric said it had “all available crews” working and had brought in crews from its sister company, Maine Public Service. Both power companies are owned by Nova Scotia-based Emera Co.

“We haven’t had an event this bad since we had a systemwide outage six or seven years ago,” said Susan Faloon, spokeswoman for Bangor Hydro Electric.

The number of workers or crews tackling the damage was not available, said Faloon.

CMP brought in outside contractors to help restore power. Carroll did not have the number of workers or crews that were working on the outages.

“Ice as much as an inch thick has coated tree branches, power lines and roads, making travel difficult and causing power interruptions,” Carroll said during the day Monday. “We won’t have a better estimate of the damage or the length of the recovery time until the icing stops and the impact phase is over.”

Mike Cempa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the precipitation that fueled the ice storm was expected to end by midnight Monday.

Tuesday’s forecast is for sunny skies, but it will be extremely cold, with high temperatures in the 20s. The Christmas forecast is similar, with bright sunshine and temperatures reaching a high of 20 degrees.

The extreme cold could complicate life for people without power and heat, Cempa noted. He said temperatures could drop to zero Tuesday night in the areas most affected by the power outages.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans LINES DOWN: The Waterville fire department closed down a section of Main Street in downtown Waterville Monday afternoon after a branch broke under the strain of heavy ice and knocking out power.

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Icy roads and streets caused by freezing rain made for a slippery commuted to work on Monday morning. December 23, 2013. John Ewing/staff Photographer.

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A man walks down the ice-covered brick courtyard of One City Center in Portland on Monday. Sidewalks became coated with ice on Monday, causing pedestrians to shuffle instead of stride through the city.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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