Utility crews in Maine moved into a mopping-up phase Saturday night, cutting the number of customers in the state still without power in the wake of the winter’s first major snowstorm to about 1,500 as of late night.

Kennebec and Androscoggin counties were the hardest hit in Central Maine Power’s section of the state, with 555 without power in Kennebec County and another 189 waiting for the lights to come back on in Androscoggin County. In all, CMP reported 1,045 customers in seven counties without power as of 11:56 a.m. Sunday.

The figures were a dramatic improvement over early Friday, when more than 100,000 customers were without electricity in Maine after a powerful storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow in some parts of the state and strong winds knocked down trees into power lines. CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said that, at some point, about 130,000 customers lost power in the wake of the storm.

Rice said the electric utility expected most customers to have their power restored by late Saturday, although a few might have to wait until Sunday. She said that for the most part, those without power are isolated individual homes and businesses, rather than whole neighborhoods or, in some cases, entire towns.

Rice said CMP had more than 300 company and contractor crews working Saturday to repair damaged power lines in Maine. CMP brought in additional crews from New York, Connecticut and Canada to help.

“We estimate that we’ve got more than 1,200 people out in the field and in offices working on this restoration,” Rice said.

Emera Maine, which serves northern and eastern Maine, reported 206 outages as of 9:55 p.m. Of those, most – 191 – were on the Cranberry Isles and Islesford.

Utility crews made steady progress repairing power lines Friday, but there remained a lot of work to be completed as of Saturday afternoon, particularly in Maine’s more remote and rural areas.

In preparation for the storm, CMP deployed 259 line crews, including 166 contractor crews from Maine, Quebec, New Brunswick, Connecticut and New York, throughout the state Thursday night. Despite higher snow accumulations than predicted in southern and coastal areas of the state, Rice said CMP was adequately prepared for the cleanup.

The towns with the greatest number of CMP customers without power in Cumberland County as of 9:55 p.m. Saturday were in Windham with 47 and Freeport with 45. In Kennebec County, the worst-hit town was Litchfield, with 391 customers without power.

Nearly all of CMP’s 3,335 customers in the town of Cumberland lost power at some point after the storm. Cumberland residents at a local warmth shelter inside Cumberland Town Hall on Tuttle Road said they were hoping to have their power restored by late Saturday and by 10:50 p.m., CMP was reporting that all were back online.

Cumberland resident Susan Mack was at the shelter Saturday trying to use her phone to make online donations to charities before the end of the year, for tax purposes. Mack said she was told that her power should be restored Saturday night.

“Someone told me at Trader Joe’s that we would get our power back first because we’re all rich people,” she said. “Well, guess what! We’re not all rich people, and no, we didn’t.”

West Cumberland resident Randy Bowden said he stopped by the shelter “just to grab some Wi-Fi” and a cup of coffee. He said the outage left him without power or running water, because he relies on an electric pump to get his water from a well.

“I was here last night to wash my face,” Bowden said. “They have running water, too.”

Warming shelters also were open Saturday at the fire stations in North Yarmouth, Litchfield and Alna.

On Saturday, parts of Kennebec County were alive with the sound of generators and the sight of utility crews from Maine and beyond working to clear downed branches, replace felled wires and bring back electricity ahead of 2017.

According to Rice, the heaviest damage in CMP’s coverage area was in a broad band parallel to the coast, including large portions of Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties. The response was more challenging because of poor driving conditions on secondary roads and deep snowbanks, Rice said.

On Saturday, some in Kennebec County were just digging out.

David Betts of Bucksport was with his granddaughters at their home on Easy Street in Farmingdale while their mother, a nurse, was at work. Their home was one of at least 400 in Farmingdale that were without power early Saturday, according to CMP’s online reporting system. One of Betts’ granddaughters, 12-year-old Ella Schaab, was hoping it would return in time for the New Year’s Eve get-together she was planning with friends.

The family was using a wood stove to stay warm, but 14-year-old Aspen Schaab said the heat did not reach her and her mother’s rooms in the back of their home.

“I feel like we’re living in Bosnia or something,” Betts said, pointing to a branch that had fallen in the road immediately in front of their next-door neighbor’s home, taking down a utility wire. “That branch has been there since 4 a.m. (Thursday).”

Soon, though, a utility crew that had come up to Maine from Massachusetts removed the branch.

One Litchfield woman, Clover Craig, tried to make the best of the power outage at her home on Libby Road. To stay busy, she had taken her son and daughter to shovel snow at places around town, including the Litchfield Sportsmen’s Club and Litchfield Community Christian Church.

But after those chores were done, Craig began worrying about the night – the family’s generator had broken that morning, she said.

“We’re hoping to have the power back on tonight,” she said, “because otherwise we’re not sure what we’re going to do.”

Rice said there were probably fewer CMP outages as of Saturday afternoon than were being reported on the company’s website, because there appeared to be a problem with online updates lagging behind the actual rate of repairs.

“We still expect to get power back to most everybody by tonight,” she said. “There could be a few stragglers, and if we don’t get them tonight, we’ll get them Sunday.”

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said some light snow would fall overnight Saturday, but it shouldn’t be enough to hamper continued restoration efforts Sunday.

The snowfall was forecast to start in southern Maine around 7 p.m., meteorologist Mike Cempa said, and end by daybreak, with a couple of inches in southern Maine and 2 to 4 inches along the midcoast.

Cempa said lingering clouds in the morning should move off early and temperatures will rise to the upper 30s. The next chance for significant precipitation is Tuesday, Cempa said, but it looks like it will fall as rain at the coast. Inland, where it may start as snow, it should turn to rain by the afternoon, he said.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Charles Eichacker contributed to this report.

 


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