High winds cause 1,800 homes to lose power

Posted Nov. 24, 2010, at 11:36 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Power outages caused by Wednesday’s windy weather likely put a crimp in the plans of some Mainers who had hoped to get a head start on their Thanksgiving Day meal preparations.

According to the National Weather Service’s Caribou office, which issued a wind advisory through midnight Wednesday, much of the state saw wind speeds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts of up to 50 mph.

The strong winds caused limbs and trees to fall on power lines, knocking out electrical service to thousands of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and Central Maine Power customers.

Outages for both utilities peaked in late morning and began to abate by late afternoon, when winds began to die down.

Maine Public Service Co., the Presque Isle-based power company that serves much of northern Maine, experienced few outages despite the windy conditions, according to Miles Williams, customer service manager.

“We’ve had just a few minor outages that affected three or four customers at a time,” Williams said.

“We were very fortunate,” he said. “We thought about it all morning. We were keeping our fingers crossed.”

Midcoast Maine appeared to be hit the hardest, based on reports from emergency dispatchers and utility representatives.

In Hancock County, dispatchers steadily received calls throughout the day Wednesday about trees blocking roads, power lines being down or alarms going off because of power outages. As Bangor Hydro workers restored power to customers in Penobscot County, continued high winds Wednesday afternoon drove up the number of customers in Hancock County who were without power.

Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the number of customers in Hancock County who had no electricity increased from less than 300 to more than 400. Dispatchers said, however, that they had no reports about serious incidents caused by the weather.

In a series of updates, Bangor Hydro spokeswoman Susan Faloon reported that 1,793 customers were without power as of 11 a.m., with the bulk of them — nearly 1,500 — in Penobscot County, and almost 300 more in Hancock County. The hardest-hit areas at that time were Glenburn, Hampden, Holden and Newburgh.

By 3 p.m., the total had dropped to 961, with the customers without power almost equally split between Penobscot and Hancock counties, Faloon said. Northern Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties also had outages, though in smaller numbers.

In her final update at 5 p.m., only 152 accounts were without electricity, 134 of them in Hancock County. Faloon expected that power would be restored to most if not all customers by Wednesday night.

The outage numbers were higher in CMP’s service area, spokeswoman Gail Rice said.

Rice said the outages peaked at about 4,000 shortly after 11 a.m. but had dropped to about 3,600 by 2 p.m. About two-thirds of the affected customers were in Lincoln, Hancock and Franklin counties.

“They’ve been scattered,” she said.

She said repair crews were doing a good job keeping up with the outages, though new outages continued to pop up throughout the afternoon.

By 6 p.m., the number of CMP customers without power had dropped to about 2,050, spokesman Dave Phifer said. He said that the number of outages had fluctuated all afternoon, bouncing between about 1,300 and 2,000 at any given time.

He said the utilities’ weather forecaster expected the winds to begin dying down by about 8 p.m. He said CMP expected to have power restored to most or all of its customers by the end of the night.

Bangor Daily News writer Bill Trotter contributed to this report.

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