WOODVILLE, Maine — It was, Dale Gray admitted Sunday, not the smartest thing to do.
The 52-year-old truck driver was in his garage turning on his home’s electrical generator during a raging thunderstorm Friday night when a lightning bolt came down on the opposite side of his street, Energy Drive.
The resultant surge “threw me across the room,” Gray said, “and it made me swear. It was not fun.”
His neighbor across the street, whose name Gray did not recall, fared worse. The lightning bolt sent a surge of electricity through his home and singed the man’s left forearm, said Gray, who compared injuries with the man on Saturday after he was released from a local hospital.
“He was OK,” Gray said. “He only had a little mark on his arm.”
At least 23,000 people lost power for varying periods of time Friday and Saturday, utility spokesmen said, as heavy thunderstorms hit the state.
By 4:30 p.m. Sunday, electricity service to all but six Central Maine Power customers in Cumberland, Lincoln, Oxford and Somerset counties was restored. Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reported nine outages, all in Township 4 near North Twin Lake, officials said.
The largest number of outages was reported late Friday night.
“At one point we had almost 17,000 outages, mostly in northern [and] western counties between 10 [p.m.] and midnight,” CMP spokesman John Carroll said.
Central Maine Power cut that number to 7,596 customers without power as of 10:40 a.m. Saturday, with most of the outages in Somerset, Kennebec and Androscoggin counties.
Bangor Hydro reported 3,245 customers were without power at 8:30 p.m. Towns affected included Mattawamkeag, Lee, East Millinocket, Medway, and Lincoln. Another 3,451 outages were on the books as of 4 p.m. Saturday, with most occurring in Penobscot County.
The storms knocked down trees, flooded roads and put up terrific lightning shows on Friday and Saturday nights. The utilities called in extra crews to handle the workload, officials said.
Gray’s lightning bolt hit at just about 8 p.m. Friday. The noise made when it tossed Gray stirred his girlfriend, Melissa Pinney, who was inside the house, she said.
“It was enough,” Pinney said, “to get me to yell out to him, ‘are you OK?’”
Their neighbor and fellow lightning survivor was not home on Sunday. East Millinocket firefighters reported sending an ambulance on Friday night after a lightning strike at his house, but declined to release the man’s name.
Gray said he learned a lesson from his adventure — the next time he hears thunder, he will leave his generator alone.
Trying to get it started during that storm, he said, “was dumb.”
BDN writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.