A potent storm system hit Maine on Monday with heavy rain and wind gusts close to 60 mph that caused more than 100,000 power outages.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses across the state lost power Monday night as the wind brought branches down on power lines. The number of customers without power went down steadily Tuesday, with nearly 41,000 outages remaining at 2 p.m.

Central Maine Power said it is bringing crews from three states and Canada to help repair damage and restore power.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, the company had not yet posted estimated times for power to be restored in many areas because crews continue to assess damage and the equipment needed to make repairs, according to a company spokesperson. In some cases, however, the crews going out to make assessments also completed repairs where they could, resulting in power being restored without any estimated times being posted, the company said.

The number of outages peaked at 91,137 at 3 a.m. Tuesday with a total of 126,000 customers impacted, according to CMP.

Cumberland County had more than 12,600 outages at 2 p.m. All of Harpswell’s 4,677 had been without power early Tuesday, but more than 800 of those customers had electricity back by 2 p.m. In Brunswick, 73 percent of customers were without power Tuesday morning, but nearly half of customers had power restored by early afternoon.

Lineworkers work to restore power to Portland’s West End after a downed power line sparked a small fire on a Brackett Street sidewalk overnight. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

In York County, about 2,100 CMP customers were without power, down from the more than 10,000 outages reported at 7 a.m. The outages are mostly scattered across small, inland towns.

In Kennebec County, more than 5,900 customers were without power at 2 p.m. Belgrade was particularly hard-hit, with more than 1,300 outages reported.

Versant Power, which serves northern and Down East Maine, was reporting 8,464 outages at 2 p.m.

More than 370 line crews and 160 tree crews will be working across the CMP service territory on Tuesday to restore power outages cased by tree limbs blowing and falling onto wires and poles and by trees outside the company’s trimming zone being uprooted in the wind. In addition to in-state crews and contractors, CMP has secured assistance from 245 crews in Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont and Canada, according to company spokesperson Catharine Hartnett.

Hartnett said some of those out-of-state crews are already working in Maine and others will arrive soon.

CMP crews were out overnight ensuring downed wires and debris were cleared from roads and working with local emergency management officials to make sure emergency vehicles could get around, Harnett said.

“With the high wind gusts we have to make situational decisions about having any line crews go up in buckets – it isn’t safe with high winds,” Hartnett said. “We diminished winds today we should make good progress.”

CMP’s priority is to restore power to critical care facilities and hospitals before moving on to repairs that will restore power to the most customers at once. For example, a transmission line between Topsham and Brunswick was damaged, causing an outage that impacted 7,000 customers.

“That one repair will make a big difference,” Hartnett said. “In more remote areas, a single lengthy repair might restore 1-2 customers at a time yet take the same time and employee resources as a similar repair that will restore several hundred.”

Hartnett said estimated restoration times will be be posted on the CMP website as crews determine how long it will take to make repairs. At mid-day, she said it was too soon to say if the majority of customers will have power restored today. Crews will be working around the clock, she said.

“We understand that customers are frustrated that they don’t’ have times, but we can’t realistically provide them until we know the extent of repairs required and how long it will take to do so,” she said.

At noon, the CMP website listed “assessing” under estimated restoration time for nearly all of its outages. Hartnett said the estimated restoration time is determined and added to the website once a field time assesses the damage and makes a plan that includes the prioritization of the repair, equipment and manpower needed, and how long that work will take.

Sometimes power will be restored before an estimated restoration time is listed online. In those cases, it is because a crew assessing damage realized the repair was simple and took care of it immediately, Hartnett said.

There were multiple reports of trees falling into roads in Lisbon, Durham, Bath, Woolwich and Bar Harbor, among other places.

The National Weather Service reported a wind gust of 62 mph was recorded on the roof of Maine Medical Center in Portland. Other recorded wind gusts overnight included 52 mph at the Portland International Jetport, 52 mph in Brunswick and 53 mph in York. A buoy off the coast of Cape Elizabeth recorded a wind gust of 58 mph, according to the weather service.

A combination of 10- to 15-foot seas and strong southeasterly winds could cause some minor coastal flooding Tuesday.

The National Weather Service issued a coastal flood advisory for 10 a.m. to noon for York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties. Minor coastal flooding and splash over is expected and could flood parking lots, parks and roads, according the weather service warned.

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Portland’s Deputy Fire Chief Chad Johnston said high winds and rain caused a 7,200-volt power line to come down at 9:50 p.m. on Brackett Street, in the city’s West End.

The line arced and caught fire, creating an electrical display that could be seen across the city. The line landed on the Ronald McDonald House and a sidewalk on Brackett Street, causing burn damage. About 12 people from six families in the Ronald McDonald House were evacuated, but no injuries were reported. The Ronald McDonald House provides rooms for families of seriously ill children staying at nearby Maine Medical Center.

Robin Chibrowski, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House, said the families were taken to Maine Med because their children were already there. The Clarion Hotel has offered to house the families for the next two nights while the house is cleaned.

Chibrowski said the smoke and soot damage from the fire was contained to the dining area, kitchen and lobby areas. A cleaning company was on site Tuesday do clean up and families will be able to return by Thursday, she said.

Since the fire, the staff of the Ronald McDonald House has received numerous phone calls, emails, text message and Facebook message offering support.

“For us, it is so overwhelming the outpouring that we have received,” Chibrowski said. “People so care about the Ronald McDonald House and the children and the families we serve.”

The 911 emergency communication system in Portland went down during the height of the windstorm. A dispatcher for the Portland communications center said the 911 outage affected Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth. The system went offline around 10 p.m. The malfunction appeared to be storm-related. Anyone with an emergency was asked to contact 874-8575.

The National Weather Service office in Gray issued a high-wind warning for southern Maine at 6 p.m., effective to 7 a.m. Tuesday. The weather service said the storm would produce “damaging winds” with the potential to blow down trees and power lines. It also predicted widespread power outages and difficult travel conditions.

“People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches. If possible, remain in the lower levels of your home during the windstorm, and avoid windows. Use caution if you must drive,” the National Weather Service said.

A man walks to a bus shelter on Congress Street in Portland on Monday in high winds and heavy rain. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Clair said most areas of southern Maine had recorded up to 2 inches of rain by early Monday evening. A wind gust of 53 mph was recorded just before 8 p.m. at the Portland International Jetport.

Rainfall amounts were expected to vary widely, with most coastal regions getting between 2 and 3 inches. Some areas, especially in Down East Maine, were expected to get as much as 4 inches.

A woman pulls up her hood while walking through a rain-soaked Dock Square in Kennebunkport on Monday. Heavy rain and strong winds were expected to cause some local flooding and power outages overnight. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

 


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