St. John Valley

Maine utilities cope slowly with record number of outages

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — More than 400,000 Mainers were still without power Tuesday morning as they awoke to rays of sunshine following Monday’s powerful storm, which caused widespread power outages and heavy damage.

Aroostook County escaped the brunt of the storm with just scattered outages. Less than 100 people, spread mostly around central Aroostook, remained without power Tuesday morning.

Because of the scope of the outages and destruction elsewhere across the state, however, recovery was slow to start, but utility companies were beginning to restore power. Several schools and businesses reopened after they were forced to close Monday.

The damage caused by the storm’s heavy winds and rains is being considered more destructive than the ice storm that froze Maine in its tracks in 1998.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, crews focused on de-activating downed lines to reduce public safety risks. That limited their ability to restore power to customers. On Tuesday morning, nearly half of Maine’s electricity customers remained without power.

After reaching a peak outage number of more than 390,000 customers Monday, Central Maine Power was able to restore power to more than 30,000 customers, exceeding the projected possibility the company set for Monday. In a news release Monday night, CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said the company achieved its primary goal of restoring power to hospitals.

Rice said crews would be working Tuesday to restore power to additional customers and that they they also hoped to have a better timeline for recovery, which could take at least a week in some areas.

Tuesday morning, Emera Maine reported more than 62,000 customers without power, down from a peak of over 89,000.

Central Maine Power said downed trees and flooded roads made it difficult to get to areas that needed repair, adding that the damage from the storm was unprecedented.

“This storm left us with the largest number of outages in the company’s history, even higher than the 1998 ice storms that many of us remember,” Rice said.

Downed trees and power lines covered the state Monday, causing damage that the Maine Emergency Management Agency said could take weeks to total in terms of cost. Fallen trees crushed cars, gauged holes in homes and left a maze of road blockages.

For the second day in a row, Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service between Boston and Brunswick also was suspended.
The high winds also did damage in Maine’s harbors, especially the Waldo County city of Belfast, where at least six vessels broke from their moorings, reducing them to rubble as they smashed on the rocks.

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