FALMOUTH — The storm that tore through the state Sunday and Monday left thousands without electricity as heavy, wet snow downed tree limbs and power lines.
On Monday, ironically, as Mainers began to dig out from this latest demonstration of nature’s power, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that more than $1 million in federal aid had been disbursed to Maine communities in seven counties for recovery assistance from last December’s ice storm. The funding covers at least 75 percent of the recovery costs.
But the aid was no comfort to those who lost power this week.
In Freeport, there were still 2,100 people without power Monday evening, Fire Chief Darrel Fournier said. Central Maine Power Co. sent seven crews to the town and hoped to have power restored to most areas by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, he said. Hardest hit were the Lambert Road, Flying Point Road, South Freeport, Routes 125 and 136 and Webster Road.
Initially, six roads were closed to traffic but four of those had been reopened by Tuesday afternoon, Fournier said.
“The biggest challenge was trying to get some of the roads open for emergency vehicles, but that has now been addressed,” he said.
Freeport opened its community center Tuesday as a warming shelter, and some local hotels offered rooms to residents at reduced rates, Fournier said.
Freeport Community Center Director Bob Lyman said only a couple of people took advantage of the community center during the day on Tuesday, but several others asked if the center would be open overnight.
“We said we’d be open for the day,” Lyman said. “We really don’t have the facilities to serve meals and put up cots.”
In Yarmouth, Deputy Fire Chief Mike Robitaille said the downtown area, Route 1, Maine Street and Em Street suffered the greatest impact from the storm, adding that Dunkin Donuts on Route 1 lost all their product because of the power outage.
“We had a lot of wires down across roads and in people’s front lawns but nothing spectacular,” he said. “We had a couple of medical calls from people on oxygen with no power.”
Much of Falmouth was in the dark as a resut of the storm, Fire-EMS Chief Howard Rice Jr. said. On Monday afternoon, 2,100 customers were without power. By 8 p.m. that night, the number had been cut to 1,800, and it dropped to 800 by mid-morning Tuesday.
Rice said the department received 41 calls for service in a 24-hour period, including 32 separate reports of downed power lines on or blocking roadways. Route 1 in Falmouth was closed for three hours early Monday morning while workers cleared away a large cable that hung low over the road.
On Tuesday, CMP dispatched several crews to Falmouth from northern Maine and Massachusetts, Rice said.
Though no storm-related injuries were reported, employees at the Gray Road Irving Station had a close call when a power surge damaged a motor that runs the fuel system and filled the building with smoke. Employees were able to shut off the power and emergency personnel found the hot spot with thermal imaging cameras.
“That could have been serious,” Rice said.
Some neighborhoods were still without power Tuesday night and Rice said it could be Wednesday morning before electricity was restored. Although the town did not open the shelter at the high school, it welcomed three people at the Central Fire Station on Bucknam Road, where they spent Monday night, he said.
CMP President Sara Burns said Tuesday that the company expects to have power restored to its entire service area by Thursday.
On Wednesday at 6 a.m., CMP reported 21,000 customers throughout its service area were still without power. Fewer than 400 were in the Portland Service Center, which includes Falmouth and Cumberland. But 15,000 remained without electricity in the company’s Brunswick Service Center, which includes Freeport and Yarmouth.
Central Maine Power Co. employees Tim Huston and Mike Ross work to restore electricity Tuesday to residents of Lambert Road in Freeport. The governor’s office said it may be Thursday before power is restored to all customers who lost electricity in the storm that hit the state Sunday night. (Paul Cunningham photo)