100,000 still lack power in Northeast

Fairpoint worker Adam Frost carries a chainsaw along Route 175 in Brooklin as he prepares to clear some limbs so he and his partner Ben Twitchell can erect a new utility pole by the side of the road. High winds and fallen trees late Thursday and early Friday morning knocked out electricity to thousands of residents in Hancock County.  BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BIL TROTTER
BDN
Fairpoint worker Adam Frost carries a chainsaw along Route 175 in Brooklin as he prepares to clear some limbs so he and his partner Ben Twitchell can erect a new utility pole by the side of the road. High winds and fallen trees late Thursday and early Friday morning knocked out electricity to thousands of residents in Hancock County. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BIL TROTTER
Posted Feb. 28, 2010, at 7:38 p.m.

Nearly 200,000 homes and businesses across the Northeast were still without power Sunday as restoration efforts continued days after a slow-moving storm battered the region with heavy snow, rain and high winds.

About 16,400 customers still lacked electricity in Maine Sunday night, along with about 75,000 in New Hampshire, the hardest-hit state. New York had about 87,000 outages.

More than 1 million utility customers throughout the region lost power at the peak of the storm.

Smaller outage numbers were reported in other states as hundreds of utility crews continued removing trees that knocked down power lines and replacing utility poles that snapped during the storm that crossed the region Thursday and Friday.

In Maine, Gov. John Baldacci visited York County on Sunday where he was briefed on the lingering effects of the storm that struck the state Thursday night. Baldacci also visited the emergency management office in Alfred and sites damaged by the storm and one of the two shelters operating in York County.

Central Maine Power Co. spokeswoman Gail Rice said Sunday afternoon that the number of CMP customers statewide without power had dipped to fewer than 30,000, more than 100,000 fewer than CMP saw at the peak during the storm’s aftermath Friday morning.

In Waldo County, where there were a total of about 1,000 customers without electricity on Friday, power was restored to all by about noon Saturday, said Rice.

In harder-hit Knox County, which had 8,700 outages Friday morning, there were still about 770 customers without electricity Sunday afternoon.

“We’ve made good progress,” said Rice, adding that CMP CEO Sara Burns has set a goal to have electricity restored to all of its customers by Monday evening.

Dispatchers for the Knox and Waldo county sheriff’s departments said Sunday there were no major lingering problems from the storm.

Rice said additional winter weather since Thursday night’s storm has led to additional outages. The storm has snapped approximately 240 utility poles statewide, Rice said.

“We’ve had more than 240 broken poles from this storm, far exceeding what we experienced in the winter storm of February 2009 and even the ice storm of December 2008,” Rice said. “Some of those poles need to be reset in ledge, which requires special equipment. It’s a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.”

Crews from as far away as Michigan and Florida have converged on Maine to assist with the cleanup and repairs.

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. crews also were working to clean up areas in Hancock County which was the hardest-hit region in the company’s coverage area.

On Saturday, more than 3,500 customers were without power and on Sunday a full complement of line, tree and electrical crews were in the Blue Hill Peninsula area, the hardest-hit region in Bangor Hydro’s coverage area. By 3 p.m. Sunday they had power restored to all but 387 customers. Outages still were reported in Blue Hill, Brooklin, Penobscot, Deer Isle and Stonington on the peninsula, along with a few outages on Mount Desert Island and in Lamoine.

The Hancock County outages were the only ones reported in the Bangor Hydro coverage area.

Both utilities expressed concern that winds forecast Sunday night could bring down damaged trees and cause additional outages in the hardest-hit areas.

Bryan Bush of Kittery lost electricity Thursday, but he used a power generator he owns to turn the lights back on in his home. Neighbors without that option have been stopping in for showers, warmth and cups of coffee.

But with three utility poles still down in front of his house and wires crossing his driveway, he wasn’t too confident about getting power back anytime soon.

“I wouldn’t expect much before the middle or the end of the week,” he said Saturday.

Dozens of shelters in the Northeast were set up at fire departments, schools and other places to provide warmth and food. In upstate New York, deep snow made it hard for people to get around.

“A lot of people cannot honestly get out of their house and get to the shelters,” said John-Anthony Bruno, executive director of the Ulster County chapter of the American Red Cross. “A lot of people are resourceful. If their neighbor has power, they go down the street rather than shelter with us.”

In southern New York, the weather was linked to a death in Warwick, where a 60-year-old man was found dead after he went outside to shovel snow on Friday, said Walter Koury, the Orange County emergency services commissioner.

In New Hampshire, Gov. John Lynch activated 50 National Guard members who went door-to-door in Allenstown on Sunday to check on residents without power.

“This continues to be a difficult situation for many New Hampshire families and I continue to urge people to put their safety first,” Lynch said.

In addition to touring areas ravaged by heavy snow and powerful winds, Lynch on Sunday afternoon was scheduled to tour Hampton, N.H., where fire destroyed a hotel and four other buildings early Friday.

The storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow in New York, dropped 8 inches of rain in southern Maine and brought winds that gusted up to 92 mph off the New Hampshire coast.

Another storm, this one from the east, was expected to bring more snow and rain into parts of New England on Sunday night into Monday.

Maine stood to get the brunt of the latest front, with snow and rain also expected in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Cempa.

“We’re looking at a good bet of 6 inches or so in a lot of places away from the coast,” Cempa said.

BDN writers Christopher Cousins in Waldo County and Rich Hewitt in Ellsworth and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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