Wind, rain storm batters greater Portland

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PORTLAND — Thousands of southern Maine residents and businesses remained without power Tuesday and roads, government offices and schools were still closed after a record-setting wind and rain storm battered Maine Sunday night and Monday.

More than a third of Portland’s Central Maine Power customers remained without electricity Tuesday morning.

Specific outage information by town is available online, but the power was still out in large swathes of Falmouth, Cumberland, Freeport, North Yarmouth and Yarmouth two days after the storm.

Central Maine Power Co. said in a news conference Tuesday that it hopes to have power restored to the majority of its customers no later than Saturday.

The company is relying on assistance from out-of-state line crews to get the lights back on, it said.

“This is the largest number of outages in the company’s history. It is significantly larger than the 1998 Ice Storm that people remember so well,” Gail Rice, spokeswoman for CMP, said in a press release.

In all, more than 400,000 CMP customers were without power as of late afternoon on Monday and the initial focus was on making downed lines safe, “a critical first step in our process,” Rice said.

“Our crews are working as quickly and safely as possible,” she said Tuesday.

Even so it could take as much as a week to restore power to some outlying areas. “We encourage customers to go to our website for restoration updates and let our crews focus on safety as they go about their tasks,” Rice said.

Downed trees, flooding and local road closures have all hampered the efforts to restore power, CMP said.

“Everyone should stay clear of any downed power lines or fallen trees that may be tangled in the lines,” Rice added. “All downed lines should be considered live and dangerous. Customers should leave the clean-up to our crews.”

Portland City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said damage included downed trees and utility wires, and small fires, but little flooding. Winds approaching 70 mph were reported, and police reported more than 60 calls for debris in city roads.

CMP reported more than 13,600 outages in the city as of 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, from a total of more than 38,000 customers. Stretches of Congress Street, and Cumberland and Brighton avenues were hard hit, and winds toppled utility poles along Veranda Street between the Martin’s Point Bridge and Interstate 295.

At a news conference in Augusta Tuesday, CMP Chief Executive Officer Sara Burns said the utility’s goal is to restore power almost entirely throughout its service area by Saturday night. The most remote areas may remain without power longer, she said.

Burns said 600 line crews were expected to arrive in Maine today to help restoration efforts.

The outages are unprecedented, she said, with more than 400,000 reported by Monday morning. In comparison, 347,000 customers were without power after the January 1998 ice storm. Burns also said fewer poles were snapped in this storm; 400 had already been identified by line crews and she expected the total to be no more than about 1,000.

She also had a request for area residents: Please refrain from approaching crews with questions because it interrupts their work.

Peter Rogers, the acting director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said it was too early to estimate the costs of storm damage, but noted officials from the Maine Department of Transportation were already meeting with officials from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss debris removal from roads.

Winds from the storm also brought down trees in Deering Oaks Park, including one near the park’s rose garden that sits between Forest Avenue and the High Street Extension.

A fallen tree completely blocked Mellen Street and crushed at least one vehicle near the Sherman Street intersection.

The National Weather Service in Gray reported wind gusts of 69 mph at the Portland International Jetport, and rainfall totals of about 1.5 inches. Inland areas received a more severe dousing, with totals of 2 inches or more of rain recorded.

Also on Tuesday, for the second day in a row, all Downeaster passenger trains between Brunswick and Boston were canceled.

“Power outages continue to be widespread along the Downeaster route, specifically in Maine,” the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said on its website. “Railroad officials continue to monitor the power restoration efforts and will provide updates as to when Downeaster service will resume.”

Several roads in Falmouth were still closed to traffic Tuesday, including Brook Road between Leighton and Mountain roads, Hadlock Road, Bartlett Way, and Woodville Road between Birkdale and Winn roads.

Authorities asked motorists to not evade barricades and to continue to be careful as they drove.

“Many are (still) without power and this includes street lights. Some hazards are hard to see until you are on top of them. Much clean up has been completed today, (but) there’s still a way to go,” the Falmouth Fire Department said in a Facebook post.

As of Tuesday morning 4,400 customers in Falmouth were still without power, although the schools and Falmouth Memorial Library reopened. The library offered its services as a warm-up location and a place to charge electronic devices and get online.

Some of the worst damage to municipal facilities appeared to be at Town Landing.

All of the floats were gone and a sailboat ripped free from its moorings was up on the rocks. In addition, at least one of the gangplanks washed ashore and may not be salvageable, officials said.

Town Manager Nathan Poore was at Town Landing Monday assessing the damage and said a phased plan to replace the dock system would now have to be fully completed next spring.

Lt. John Kilbride of the Falmouth Police Department said all town departments were running at full staff Monday, with public works crews doing their best to at least clear the roadways.

Power was fully restored to downtown Freeport as of Monday, but there were still many homes and businesses without power in town on Tuesday morning.

For the second day there was no school in Regional School Unit 5, which also includes Durham and Pownal, and the Freeport Community Library was also still closed and without power.

Downed trees and power lines made travel hazardous around Freeport into Tuesday, while on Monday several major streets were closed off, according to Town Manager Peter Joseph.

Cumberland Town Hall was open to residents, but the schools were still closed Tuesday and 98 percent of homes in town were still without power.

Tuttle Road between Friar Lane and Harris Road was also still closed Tuesday, as were all the town’s recreational areas, which suffered major storm tree damage, according to the town’s Facebook page.

North Yarmouth Town Hall was expected to open at 1 p.m. Tuesday, but on its Facebook page, the town said services would be limited due to lack of power and no internet service.

The North Yarmouth Fire Station was open to the public as a warming shelter, for water pick-up and for bathrooms until power is fully restored.

In Yarmouth both the Town Hall and the schools were closed Tuesday and the Fire and Rescue Department’s Facebook page said, “our community suffered tremendous damage” with more than 20 roads in town still partially or fully closed.

Chebeague Island was also hit hard hit by the storm. But as of mid-afternoon Tuesday power had been restored to nearly all of the 559 CMP customers on the island.

As of mid-morning Wednesday, 3,207 customers in Brunswick were without power, along with 2,566 in Bath, 2,368 in Harpswell and 1,231 in Topsham.

About 48 hours after the strongest winds had died down, uprooted trees still blocked some roads, while others hung on top of power lines. Utility cables were sitting in the roads, along with tree limbs and debris.

Schools in School Administrative District 75 were still closed Wednesday morning. The district includes Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham.

Bath Fire Capt. Chris Cummings said officials in that city were establishing a warming and charging shelter, since “it seems power could be off up to about a week.”

Cummings said north Bath seemed to be the hardest hit area in the city.

Bath city offices opened at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, although the City Council’s monthly meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 1, was postponed to Nov. 8. The rescheduled meeting will start at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Regional School Unit 1 schools, which include Bath, remained closed Wednesday. According to the school district website, four RSU 1 schools were without power.

Brunswick officials set up a warming station and a place to shower at the Brunswick Recreation Center, in Brunswick Landing at 220 Neptune Drive. Residents should bring their own towels and shower supplies. It opens daily at  8 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. weekdays and 4 p.m. weekends.

Residents can warm up and also get water at the two fire stations at 21 Town Hall Place and 24 Bath Road; the police station at 85 Pleasant St.; and the Town Hall, 85 Union St. Town Manager John Eldridge said as of Tuesday morning there had been no requests for shelter.

Eldridge said the municipal building got its power back on around 10 a.m. on Tuesday, but, “It is going to take a while to get things cleaned up. The fire, police, and public works have been working together.”

A planned Monday evening workshop between town leaders and rail officials on Downeaster train noise was canceled. Eldridge said he is unsure when the Oct. 30 meeting will be rescheduled because there are several participants to coordinate and many are from out of state.

Schools were closed Monday and Tuesday, but reopened Wednesday morning.

“We have a lot of damage. There are pockets all over town … Mere Point has been hit really bad,” Eldridge said.

Fire Chief Ken Brillant warned people to be extra vigilant with generators. He said to make sure to not use them near open windows or doors and not inside indoor spaces like garages. Generators can pose carbon monoxide and gasoline fume dangers and well as a fire risk.

Officials believe a generator caused a garage fire at 7 Poplar Drive on Monday around 4:30 p.m.

Topsham Fire and Rescue Acting Chief Mike Labbe said his department had not had any requests for shelter. He said residents who need water can fill containers at the public safety building at 100 Main St. There is a charging station for phones and laptops at the police station lobby, which is open 24 hours a day.

Labbe urged people to “stay smart,” keep away from downed power lines and not cut trees that have power lines tangled in them.

He also warned about the safe use of generators and to follow the directions and not to “backfeed” by plugging the equipment directly into household outlets.

The Harpswell Town Office, at 363 Mountain Road, reopened late Tuesday morning, but did not have phone service until Wednesday and was operating with a generator.

The town set up a warming area in the lobby where residents can also get coffee and non-potable water for washing, flushing toilets, etc.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said several CMP crews were working Wednesday morning to restore power. She said CMP officials said there were at least eight poles that needed to be replaced, including six in difficult ledgy areas.

Eiane urged people to be patient and check on their neighbors.

Fire Administrator Art Howe said CMP made significant progress restoring power on Wednesday morning. He said the town started with about 4,500 CMP customers without power and was down to about 2,700. Harpswell has also had no requests for shelter.

“We are almost entirely residential, with very little commercial activity.  We don’t have the high-risk properties that other have towns have like hospitals and senior homes,” Howe said.  ‘We are not a high-priority area for CMP. That’s the reality of being a mostly residential area.”

Howe urged residents to stay away from power lines and “shouldn’t be trying to differentiate” from cable and phone lines.

He also warned about being careful as power is turned back on, since lines that didn’t have power could be energized from nearby homes that are backfeeding.

Electricity was expected to be restored by late Thursday night to most of Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, and South Portland.

More than half of Central Maine Power Co.’s customers in Cape Elizabeth were among the estimated 220,000 homes and businesses statewide still without service Wednesday morning, according to a CMP news release.

On Tuesday, Cape Elizabeth Public Works Director Robert Malley said no public buildings were damaged in the storm, but the department was working on clearing debris from fallen trees and power lines. Malley said there was significant damage to trees and lines on Mitchell Road and Spurwink Avenue.

Power was restored in all municipal buildings just before noon Tuesday.

In Scarborough, nearly 1,400 of CMP’s 10,400 customers were still without power on Wednesday afternoon. Electricity on most streets was slated to be restored by Thursday night, but some – including Trout Pond Lane and Saco Street – were likely to be out until Saturday.

Fire Chief Michael Thurlow said Tuesday afternoon that town departments had worked hard to clear debris on primary roads.

“There was damage all over town,” Thurlow added. “This was a non-discriminatory event.”

Most CMP customers in South Portland had their electricity restored by Wednesday afternoon. CMP expected to have the remaining nearly 340 customers restored by Saturday.

South Portland Administrative Assistant Denise Michaud said Wednesday that trees were still being cleared throughout the city, but none were impeding traffic and all streets were passable. Michaud said the last municipal building to regain electricity was the Planning and Development office, which reopened Wednesday morning.

While Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth schools were without power and closed through Tuesday afternoon, South Portland schools were in session on Tuesday.

For those still without power, many businesses and municipal buildings have opened their doors to provide internet or wireless access, water, or electricity.

Annalee Rosenblatt ran her home-based consulting business from the Scarborough Public Library, which extended its hours Monday and Tuesday.

Rosenblatt said this was the first time she lost electricity since moving to the Olde Millbrook development 36 years ago.

“It’s obviously inconvenient,” she said. “But by coming (to the library) I can catch up on all of my work calls.”

David McClain drove from his home in North Yarmouth to the library on Tuesday afternoon to connect to the internet. He photographed the 1998 ice storm for the Associated Press, but said the carnage from Sunday night’s storm was unlike anything he’d ever seen.

Every time McClain loses electricity, he promises himself he’ll buy a generator, he said – but never has.

“The first thing I did (when I got connected to the internet) was look on generac.com,” he said. “I’m not doing this again.”

Library Director Nancy Cromwell said on Tuesday that the library was so full, auxiliary parking lots had to be used.

Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth was also open and set up extra tables, chairs and powerstrips for people to “come enjoy the light and re-charge,” according to its website.

South Portland Community Center, on Nelson Road, never lost power and was open for regular hours for people to shower, charge devices, and connect to Wi-Fi. Although no one was using the facility Tuesday afternoon, an employee said the center was busy Monday night.

Similarly, Cia Cafe owner Jeannie Dunnigan said Monday was one of the busiest days the Knightville business has seen in its four years of existence. Neither Dunnigan’s Ocean Street location nor a second one in Saco lost power this week, she said.

Barista Sierra Tibbetts said people were still “plugged in” when the cafe closed at 5 p.m. on Monday and were lined up at the door at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday.

Both cafes ran out of baked goods, eggs, and other essentials throughout the day.

“People were even coming in to order cups of hot water to take home,” Dunnigan said. “Everybody has been so appreciative … we take so many things for granted.”

Mellen Street in Portland Monday morning, Oct. 30, where the overnight wind and rain storm uprooted a large tree that landed on top of two parked cars. It was one of many streets in the city where downed trees and power lines caused detours and left residents and businesses without electricity. Central Maine Power Co. said more than 390,000 customers – more than half its customer base – did not have power at about noon and it would probably take several days to make repairs. (Matt Junker / The Forecaster)

The wind was too much for this tree along High Street in Deering Oaks Park. (David Harry / The Forecaster)

Three broken utility poles lean toward homes along Veranda Street between Oregon and Olympia Streets on Monday morning in Portland. (Melanie Sochan / The Forecaster)

This tree took down power lines and blocked U.S. Route 1 in Falmouth, requiring motorists to take a detour to and from the Martin’s Point Bridge. (Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster)

Falmouth officials were not sure where this sailboat was from, but it ended up on the rocks at Town Landing Monday morning. (Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster)

Falmouth Town Manager Nathan Poore said the float system at Town Landing was destroyed by Monday’s storm. He said what was supposed to be a phased-in plan to replace the dock system would now have to be completed entirely next spring. (Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster)

Chuck Sims, of 10 Robinson St., South Portland, looks at the damage a willow tree on his property caused at 201 Elm St. after it fell in Monday’s wind storm. His wife, Diane Sims, said she was woken up around 6 a.m. Monday when part of the ceiling collapsed in her bedroom. No one was injured. The five-unit apartment building next door is about 110 years old and is owned by Bob Thayer. The tree damaged a fire escape, broke two windows, took off siding and damaged a section of roof. (Melanie Sochan / The Forecaster)

A driver travels around a fallen tree and under downed power lines on Upper Mast Landing Road in Freeport early Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 31. Town officials said 3,500 of Freeport’s 4,700 residents were without power. (Melanie Sochan / The Forecaster)

The scene Monday on Pinkham Brook Road in Durham was repeated in towns throughout southern Maine. (Courtesy CMP)

This garage at 7 Poplar Drive in Brunswick was destroyed by fire Monday afternoon, Oct. 30. Town officials said a generator had been running inside the structure. (Melanie Sochan / The Forecaster)

 Courtesy CMP

A Central Maine Power Co. crew repairs storm damage on Winter Street in Topsham. (Courtesy CMP)

Clinton Street in South Portland was closed Tuesday, Oct. 31, as crews removed a tree that had fallen. (Jocelyn Van Saun / The Forecaster)

Fallen power lines at the intersection of Route 77 and Wentworth Road in Cape Elizabeth blocked traffic on Tuesday morning, Oct. 31. (Courtesy town of Cape Elizabeth)

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  • Charles Martel

    What, no government help? Mainers survive because they’re tough and have a spirit of rugged individualism. Neighbors helping neighbors to get through an inconvenience ….except for the tool who had to plug in his or her electric tooth brush at the Falmouth Library instead of freeing up the outlet for a cell phone.