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August 27, 2011

Maine under state of emergency; Canadian utilities sending workers

From staff and news services

Gov. Paul LePage declared a statewide emergency Friday to allow state, county and local governments to better respond to approaching Hurricane Irene, and the state's largest electric utility announced that reinforcements from Canada would be in place even before the storm's arrival Sunday.

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A woman walks past a boarded-up home along Surf Avenue in Saco on Friday. A few houses in the area, which was pounded by a nor’easter on Patriots Day in 2007, were boarded up in preparation for Hurricane Irene.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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From left, Dylan Bruce, Jessica McGreehan, Doug Baker, and Kyle T. Randall, all of Sail Maine, remove one of Sail Maine's boats from the water on Friday in preparation for Hurricane Irene.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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SEVERE WEATHER TIPS

Choose several places to go in case an evacuation is ordered, such as a friend’s house, a motel or local shelter. Also, keep a road map handy in case roads or bridges are closed and an alternate route must be taken.

If you plan to board up your windows, use 3/4-inch marine plywood. Pre-drill the holes to speed up the installation.

If you have enough warning time, take down diseased or damaged limbs from trees.

Clear your yard and deck of loose objects.

During the storm, stay inside and away from windows.

Have a supply kit handy. It should include a first aid kit; canned food with a manual can opener; three gallons of water per person; rain gear; sleeping bags and blankets; a battery-powered radio; a flashlight; extra batteries; and special items for infants, such as formula and diapers, and for the elderly, such as medication.

If the power fails, use flashlights rather than candles.

Charge up your cellphone and top off your car’s gas tank.

More information is available at: maineprepares.com

MAP OF IRENE

FOR MORE

Check the Maine Emergency Management Agency’s website maineprepares.com for safety information, sign up for email alerts in your county by visiting www.maine.gov/mema, or track the storm through the National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.noaa.gov.
 

The National Weather Service in Gray followed the declaration by putting the state under a tropical storm watch.

It was still too early Friday night to predict the precise timing or impact of the storm, but it is expected to hit southern Maine sometime late Sunday afternoon or early evening, said meteorologist Dan St. Jean.

"We're still going with sustained winds of 35 to 50 miles an hour, especially late afternoon or early evening Sunday. Gusts to 60 miles an hour are possible, but that could change," he said. "We're not expecting anything stronger than that."

The track of the storm is still very much up in the air, he said. If it tracks farther inland to the west, the effects of the storm could be quite different in Portland and southern Maine than if it tracks easterly. "A difference of 75 or 100 miles (in its track) will be very noticeable here in Maine," he said.

Rainfall along the coast is expected to be between 2 and 5 inches. "It won't be nearly as heavy here as it will be in western New England," St. Jean said.

LePage's emergency declaration was accompanied by a statement urging "all Maine citizens to take necessary steps to prepare and heed all warnings issued in connection with this event."

Central Maine Power took the unusual step of bringing in Canadian line crews to assist. The 60 contract crews will bring the number of line crews to 200, in addition to 150 tree-cutting crews loaned to the utility from within the state, CMP spokesman John Carroll said.

It was only the second time that CMP officials could recall bringing in Canadian crews before a storm in anticipation of widespread damage.

The emergency proclamation allows utility workers to put in extra hours, said Lynnette Miller, Maine Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman.

MEMA and the American Red Cross have been working with local officials to determine where regional shelters may be needed, Miller said. Final decisions on shelter openings will be made closer to Irene's arrival, she said, though officials in Westbrook and Scarborough announced plans to open their high schools today.

Scarborough High School will open at 3 p.m. while Westbrook High will open at 7 p.m.

Those choosing to use the shelter are reminded to bring essential items, such as a towel, soap, toothpaste, medications and insurance documents. People are also encouraged to eat and shower before they leave their homes.

Irene will cause tens of millions of dollars of lost revenue for the state's tourism industry as tourists alter their plans or cancel trips altogether, said Charles Colgan, of the University of Southern Maine's Muskie Institute of Public Service in Portland.

The timing means much of that money will be lost forever because kids are going back to school and it's too late to reschedule trips this season, he said.

"If this had happened in July, people would've postponed their vacations and postponed their travel. But a lot of the losses for tourism won't be recovered simply because of the timing," Colgan said, noting that Labor Day, on Sept. 5, marks the traditional end of the summer tourism season in Maine.

Across the state, boatyard workers continued moving as quickly as possible to pull boats out of the water, a factor that could suck even more money from the economy.

At Portland Yacht Services, service manager Rob Benson said about one in 10 boaters told him they're done for the season and won't be putting their boats back in the water.

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