CALAIS, Maine — Electricity was restored to four Down East towns and Route 1 reopened to traffic about eight miles southeast of Calais after a 12½-hour effort to replace four utility poles finished up early Tuesday night.
A quarter-mile stretch of the busy highway in eastern Washington County had been closed in both directions since 5 a.m. after two utility poles came down onto the roadway, blocking both lanes of traffic north of Lyons Towing at 1231 River Road, near the Route 1 intersection with St. Croix Drive.
“As of 5:45 p.m., it’s all back on,” said Charlie McAlpin, communications director for Calais-based Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative. “Route 1 opened back up at 5:30 and the poles are now completely replaced. Two were broken, two others were damaged, and all four were replaced.”
The Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative remains baffled about why the two poles came down, McAlpin said. Also unknown is why two nearby poles were cracked and also needed replacement.
“At least one of these poles was brand new,” he said. “We’re going to put our heads together to try and determine what happened to make a couple of them fall down.”
McAlpin said the two poles that blocked traffic snapped off at ground level.
“It was not a traffic accident, and it wasn’t wind,” he said. “It might have been related to the cold. We can’t rule out anything at this point. It wasn’t a question of rot. The pole I saw this morning was pretty new and had been set within the past year. I suspect we won’t know until we can get all of our heads together and determine what we do know.”
Calais firefighters and police had been rerouting traffic around the scene all day, which was no easy task as the St. Croix River runs to the east and rural areas with few roads are located to the west.
Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith said northbound traffic was rerouted southwest all day onto Ridge Road and from there to the west on Station Road to Charlotte Road, which runs north to Calais. Southbound traffic, Smith said, was detoured on the same roads in the opposite direction, a distance of approximately 22 miles.
“The delay is due to the complicated nature of the repair, given that phone, cable and fiber-optics are also attached to the poles in question,” said McAlpin. “Part of it was we had to drill through granite, which takes special equipment, and Route 1 is a major feeder for electric, phone, fiber-optic, cable.”
Crews from Time Warner Cable and FairPoint Communications were also on hand to provide assistance and information.
An estimated 790 homes and businesses in Red Beach, Robbinston and parts of Perry and Pembroke were without electricity because of the outage. Power was restored to about 400 of those customers at about 8:30 a.m.
BDN staff reporter Andrew Neff also contributed to this story.