More than 1,000 utility line and support workers fanned out across Maine on Saturday and restored power to tens of thousands of customers, but more than 42,000 remained in the dark Saturday night.

”We’ve got a lot of help,” said John Carroll, a spokesman for Central Maine Power Co., noting that crews from as far away as Michigan, Missouri and Florida arrived in the wake of a powerful storm that socked the region with heavy snow, rain and hurricane-force winds. Workers also came from Massachusetts and New York, he said.

Carroll said the utility found 184 poles snapped, and repairing them requires the most work. The snapped poles need to be removed, new poles put in place, power lines restrung and then the flow of electricity restored. About two-thirds of the poles that were snapped were replaced as of Saturday afternoon, he said.

The largest number of Mainers without power was in York County, Carroll said, followed by Cumberland, Lincoln and Sagadahoc. Some customers in those counties may not be connected until Monday or Tuesday, he said, especially those in isolated areas with individual outages.

Utility crews work first on lines that can get a large number of customers reconnected, then move to smaller groups of customers and finally individual buildings.

The highest wind gust reported from the storm was 91 mph off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H. — well above hurricane force of 74 mph. More than 1 million customers across the Northeast lost power, and more than half of them were still without electricity as of Saturday afternoon.

New Hampshire’s electrical grid was the hardest hit, with about 180,000 customers still without power Saturday night, down from over 330,000 Friday.

Two people in Candia, N.H., died in a house fire caused by improperly using a propane heater to stay warm, fire officials said.

In Maine, Carroll said CMP is dealing with two different situations: the coastal area, where wind and heavy rain led to trees toppling over and pulling down lines, and inland, where heavy, wet snow tended to snap branches, which then fell on the lines.

”Along the coast, it’s one big mess you’re trying to clean up and inland, it’s a series of problems,” he said. ”If a limb comes down, it might hang on the line and short it out, but when a tree comes down, it’s pretty destructive.”

Carroll noted that relatively mild weather and only light snow and rain showers allowed crews to make significant progress Saturday.

Officials in York County said damage there, particularly in York and Wells, might be significant enough to warrant a request for a federal disaster declaration.

Rick Davis, a spokesman for the York County Emergency Management Agency, said a final decision on that will have to wait until later this week, when cities and towns turn in forms detailing costs related to the storm. If a declaration is made, cities and towns may be eligible for federal reimbursement of some of the costs.

Davis said only a handful of roads remained closed and most of them were smaller back roads. At the peak of the storm and high tide Friday morning, more than 150 roads were closed, he said.

In York, 70-year-old lobsterman Pat White was able to use his generator to help cook a pancake breakfast Saturday to feed his neighbors — a father, his daughter and her baby — who were without power. White and his wife, Enid, also were planning what to serve them for dinner.

”We’ve got to use up some of the stuff in the refrigerator,” he said.

Nick Vermette, 49, a Central Maine Power safety specialist who was supervising line crews Saturday, said the 17-hour days are exhausting.

”By the time you drive home, take a shower, try to get to sleep, get up and come back, you’re averaging four to five hours sleep,” he said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:  [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.