Half of Maine’s population shivered through another long night without power or lights Friday, as the state staggered under the crushing weight of a historic ice storm.

In its second day, the storm left an estimated 500,000 people without electricity and scattered trees over highways and utility lines like so many toothpicks.

Gov. Angus King declared a civil emergency, pressing the National Guard into service alongside state highway crews to clear thousands of miles of blocked roads so utility workers could try to restore power.

Across southern and central areas of the state, Central Maine Power Co. crews worked feverishly with crews from Massachusetts utilities to restore power.

But it was largely a futile effort.

For each line that was restored, another seemed to snap as a fresh dose of freezing rain toppled more branches and trees.

By Friday evening, at least 400,000 people in CMP’s service area remained without power. Some had not had electricity since Thursday.

The Red Cross and a few towns opened more than 60 emergency shelters in schools and other buildings for Mainers who needed food, water and a respite from their cold, dark homes.

National Guard units were busy looking for generators to provide lights and heat for the shelters.

Only 600 people used the shelters maintained by the Red Cross Thursday night, according to a Red Cross spokesman, but the turnout had grown into the thousands by Friday night.

Many Mainers stayed through the ordeal, falling back on wood stoves, bottled water, sleeping bags and candlelight to get them through another night at home.

And some of them suffered tragic consequences.

Linda Hunt of Portland and her daughters, Kathleen, 1, and Jamie, 3, were taken to Maine Medical Center Friday night suffering from smoke inhalation after a candle was knocked onto a bed and ignited the blankets.

The fire severely damaged Hunt’s house on Westbrooke Street, and the Red Cross was seeking emergency housing for the family.

Hours later, firefighters were called to another fire at 1784 Washington Ave. in Portland. The DePalma family was using a fireplace to keep warm when the ceiling ignited. Flames burned through the roof before firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze. It was unclear how many people were in the house at the time, but no one was injured, firefighters said.

Around the state Friday, schools and many businesses kept their doors closed. State government was shut down as well, except for emergency workers.

King said he would ask the federal government for disaster relief to pay the mounting costs of the storm for local and state agencies. No estimate of that cost was available Friday.

The severe weather was no kinder to northern or eastern Maine – or to the state’s neighbors in the Northeast.

At least 25 percent of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.’s customers were without power Friday afternoon.

Parts of upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire were crippled by road closures, power outages and flooding. In Quebec, an estimated 3 million people had no electricity.

Incredibly, no deaths have been attributed to the storm in Maine.

Today, the National Weather Service predicts partly sunny skies and temperatures above freezing for all but northern sections.

That should melt some of the ice and give road and utility workers a chance to gain ground on the damage.

However, state and utility officials warn that it could be at least a week before power is restored in all areas.

“That’s the best we can do, given the sheer scale of the devastation, ” said Mark Ishkanian, a spokesman for CMP.

As the storm lingered for a second day Friday, a scene of widespread devastation unfolded across the state.

Highways, fields, lawns and driveways from New Hampshire to Eastport were littered with the shattered remains of trees and branches.

Utility poles tilted at wild angles and wires snaked over the ground.

The soft tattoo of rain and sleet was punctuated by the sharp cracks of breaking limbs, as more damaged trees dropped branches to the ground.

Crews from the Maine Turnpike Authority, the Department of Transportation and municipalities were able to keep major roads open. That included the Maine Turnpike, Interstate 95 and Route 1.

But virtually every town in the state reported closures on secondary roads from fallen trees and lines.

The DOT estimated that portions of more than 50 state highways were at least temporarily closed Friday afternoon, made impassable by overhanging trees and downed wires.

In Lewiston, where as many as 20 streets had to be barricaded because of downed limbs and lines, Public Works Director Chris Branch declared the storm “the worst disaster the city has experienced” in at least a decade, including Hurricane Bob in 1991 and the flood of the fall of 1996.

“Our biggest problem is all of the idiots who are out on the road, ” Branch said. “There are a lot of people out there, and I don’t know where they’re all going. There’s nothing open.”

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said the situation was treacherous because limbs kept falling all day.

“What might be clear at one moment could have a huge limb across it at another, ” he said.

McCausland said there were no reports of fatalities or serious injuries as a result of the storm.

“We’ve been very fortunate in that, ” he said, “and that is mostly because people have stayed put.”

But there were some close calls.

In Gray, a blue tarp was strung across four holes in the roof of Town Councilor Anthony Cook’s house.

A huge pine tree toppled onto the house on West Gray Road Thursday, with a thunderclap that summoned neighbors from 100 yards up the road. Cook and his wife Maude were sitting in the living room at the time.

“It scared the daylights out of both of us. I couldn’t believe it, ” Cook said. “We have a spare bedroom and it went through the roof and right through the ceiling.” Nobody was hurt, he said.

Trees that fell onto highways were the responsibility of hundreds of crews from the DOT and local public works departments.

Their numbers were bolstered when King declared the civil emergency, a step that authorized the National Guard to help out with the job. But the storm frustrated emergency crews by sporadically dumping rain and freezing rain out of the sky.

Meanwhile, the temperature hung at or just below freezing.

Ishkanian, at CMP, estimated Friday evening that 400,000 people were still without power. That was an improvement over earlier in the day.

But he said he expected that number to go up again because more freezing rain was expected overnight.

Problems were most severe in the Augusta area, Bridgton, Lewiston, Brunswick, Rockland and inland York County, Ishkanian said.

The storm crashed viciously into Augusta, where trees either snapped or doubled over, like horseshoes, from the weight of the ice.

Larry Mason, who owns Mason’s Lawn Mower and Power Equipment, said he spent Thursday night listening to the crack-crack-crack of trees breaking under the weight of the ice.

“It went on, ” he said, adding that he, like most Mainers, wasn’t ready for the storm’s fury.

“I’ve got all the equipment I need to handle snow, ” said Mason. “But I got nothing for this.”

Ishkanian said damage was more widespread and severe than any storm CMP had ever experienced.

“We’ve had at least 100 poles snapped, ” he said. “We’ve never had anything like that, not even in Hurricane Gloria.”

CMP concentrated Friday on restoring power to downtown areas, public safety buildings and hospitals, many of which were running on generators.

More than 110 CMP crews were on the job, along with another 90 crews from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Working alongside them were 150 tree-removal crews from Lucas Tree Expert Co. of Portland and firms from Nova Scotia to Maryland.

Ishkanian said tree trimming and removal was the most important part of the emergency cleanup.

“Until those trees can shed the enormous amount of weight they’re carrying, there will always be the threat of more outages, ” he said.

CMP’s strategy was to rest some of its crews Friday night and make a full press this weekend, when temperatures are expected to rise.

As Mainers faced a second night with no lights, no heat and no water, many began heading toward emergency shelters.

Ned Gribbin, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Portland, said 2,000 people had settled into shelters by 7 p.m. Friday. He expected the number to rise as the night wore on.

The occupants ran the gamut, he said, from elderly people to families with children to single adults.

Bill Libby, director of Maine’s Emergency Management Agency, said the shelter population was relatively low, given the scope of the storm.

“I guess that kind of reflects our independence, ” he said.

Libby said most people were not at serious risk staying home, because the temperature is warm.

However, he urged residents to check in with elderly neighbors, who may be least prepared to deal with the situation.

“If we all call our neighbors beside us and behind us, there’ll be no problems, ” he said.

To cope with the storm, Mainers who stayed home fell back on their ingenuity and community spirit.

When morning dawned in Gray, hopeful shoppers flocked to the IGA, only to find the power out. But Phil Pollard, an employee, improvised.

Pollard handed each shopper a flashlight, pencil and piece of paper and told them to write down the price of everything they bought.

“It was a life saver, ” said Kathleen Wood, who needed formula and diapers after her road home was blocked by downed power lines.

Bill Call, whose family owns the store, said the stack of paper and bills will be an accounting nightmare, but it was worth it.

“If we didn’t open we would have had to turn away all those people waiting at the doors, ” he said. “People just were desperate.”

Call sold 80 cases of water in 90 minutes, as well as batteries and basic foodstuffs.

In Whitefield, Judith Newell tended to her three grandchildren, ages 1 to 8, along with three dogs and two cats, with no power or water.

“The kids think it’s like Funland, but it’s no Funland to me, trying to keep them warm, ” she said.

A woman up the road who had a wood stove invited Newell and other neighbors in for food and warmth. “We all help people in this neighborhood, ” Newell said.

Country Corner market offered free hot coffee to its customers. And the North Whitefield Superette was struggling to get its gas pumps operating.

The storm also did serious damage in northern and eastern Maine.

“We’ve got trees down, trees split, ” said Bill Cohen, spokesman for Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. “It’s like driving through a minefield.”

Major sections of the company’s transmission system were crippled by falling trees and limbs, leaving towns from Bangor south to Penobscot Bay and east to Lubec without power.

Friday afternoon, as many as 55,000 people in Bangor Hydro’s service area were without power, Cohen said. The company serves about 185,000 people.

Power outages in Bangor prevented the Bangor Daily News from publishing a full edition Friday.

Executive Editor Mark A. Woodward said 14,000 copies of the paper were printed before an outage silenced the press plant in Hampden.

It was the first time since Jan. 1, 1963, when Bangor was buried under a 3-foot snowstorm, that the paper was unable to publish. Woodward said the staff was frustrated.

“We wanted to do it so badly, ” he said. “And we were so close.”

Other papers also scrambled to get editions onto the street.

The Lewiston Sun Journal printed Friday’s editions of the Kennebec Journal and Central Maine Morning Sentinel after power was lost in the cities of Augusta and Waterville.

When power went out in Lewiston, the Sun Journal’s Friday edition was printed by The Portland Newspapers.

The U.S. Postal Service diverted mail from northern and eastern Maine to Portland for processing when power went out in the Bangor area.

Jim Drogan, manager of the processing center in Hampden, said a shelter would be opened in the center for employees’ families.

“We want them to feel OK about coming to work, ” he said.

Damage from the storm extended north into Quebec, where major transmission lines were downed by ice.

And to the west, power outages were widespread in central New Hampshire, northwestern Vermont and five counties in upstate New York.

Flooding was also reported in several states.

Back in Maine, Ishkanian, at CMP, said he expected a week would pass before residents of rural areas get their electricity back.

He urged Mainers to use common sense, stay away from downed lines and look out for their neighbors.

“The sheer scale of this thing really requires people helping each other, ” he said. “Maine is noted for that, and it really needs to come out in the next few days.”

Staff writers Joshua L. Weinstein, Mark Shanahan, David Hench, Susan Rayfield and Suzanne DelCamp  contributed to this story.  


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