60 mph winds cut power across state

Posted May 14, 2009, at 9:36 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Strong winds Thursday knocked out power to thousands of Mainers as gusts topping 60 mph brought down utility poles, trees and limbs throughout the state.

The blustery weather also was blamed for the loss of telephone service in some locations, including the Penobscot County Courthouse, which houses the county’s administrative offices, the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the county jail, Superior Court and the Penobscot Regional Communications Center, among other things.

Despite the problem with the county’s business lines, which were still down late Thursday night, 911 emergency services were not affected and continued to operate throughout the day, according to a news release sent to area media outlets.

The National Weather Service recorded 66 mph gusts in Beaver Cove, along Moosehead Lake. Gusts were clocked at 55 mph in Clayton Lake, 52 mph in Presque Isle and 51 mph in Topsfield.

Given the wind, the NWS issued a gale warning and a small craft advisory for coastal Maine through 1 a.m. today, and a high wind advisory for most of the rest of the state through early Thursday evening.

Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice said wind-related power outages affected as many as 5,500 customers during its peak between 12:30 and 1 p.m.

Though the number of affected customers dropped to about 1,700 by midafternoon and down to about 500 by late afternoon, the total spiked back up to 2,040 by nighttime.

Kennebec County was the hardest hit, though CMP also saw concentrations of outages in the Belfast, Rockland and Skowhegan areas.

Rice expected that electrical service would be fully restored sometime Thursday night, if winds died down as forecast.

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. customers also lost power Thursday, with totals ranging from almost 2,500 about noon to nearly 4,500 as of 4:30 p.m., company spokeswoman Susan Faloon said in a series of updates to media outlets and emergency management groups.

The lion’s share of the outages was in Penobscot County, though service interruptions also were reported in Hancock and Piscataquis counties.

One of the day’s more notable outages occurred at the Bangor Mall, which was without power for almost two hours Thursday. A downed power line caused that outage.

Though an estimate was not immediately available Thursday, customers of Maine Public Service Co. in Aroostook County also lost power.

Maine Public spokeswoman Virginia Joles said the northern Maine utility saw scattered outages throughout its service area, which runs from Medway to Allagash.

Representatives from the three power providers said that all available crews were out working to restore service.

Miles Williams, Maine Public’s customer service manager, said heavy winds made for some difficult driving during his trip from Brewer to Presque Isle Thursday afternoon.

Downed trees and wires also blocked several roads and streets, including a section of Washington Street in Brewer and Upper Dedham Road in Dedham.

Dispatchers with the sheriff’s departments in Piscataquis and Somerset counties and with the state police barracks in Orono were among those who were busy Thursday afternoon fielding calls about downed power lines and fires caused by branches on live wires.

Fire departments throughout the region also were kept busy responding to calls.

Somerset County dispatchers said Thursday there was wind and falling tree damage to power lines in Pittsfield, Ripley, Embden, Solon, Madison, Anson and North New Portland. The North New Portland area seemed to be hit the hardest they reported.

Bangor Daily News writers Diana Bowley and Sharon Mack and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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