Power goes out — again — in Bar Harbor

Posted July 17, 2014, at 7:57 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Another day, another power outage.

For the second time this week, local residents and businesses have been disconnected from the electrical grid.

On Sunday, it was a fallen tree branch that knocked out power to approximately 2,500 Emera Maine customers. On Thursday, it was a utility pole that caught fire, interrupting service to the downtown district for about an hour.

One of the businesses affected Thursday was the Thirsty Whale Tavern on Cottage Street in downtown Bar Harbor. Heather Sorokin, who owns the business with her husband Basil Eleftheriou, was on the phone with a reporter when the power was restored around 5:15 p.m.

Customers could be heard cheering in the background when the lights came back on.

“Let’s see if they stay on now,” Sorokin quipped.

She listed some of the other reasons that power has gone out in Bar Harbor this summer, when many tourist-oriented businesses have only a couple of months to make the vast majority of their annual income.

In early May, as many such businesses were preparing for the summer season, a delivery truck snagged some overhead power lines in a downtown parking lot and pulled over a utility pole, causing an outage in several nearby stores and restaurants.

When the remnants of Hurricane Arthur blew through the Gulf of Maine earlier this month, during the busy Fourth of July weekend, it caused widespread power outages in much of Maine, including Bar Harbor.

And just last Sunday, on July 13, a tree limb that officials believe had been damaged in the storm fell on a transmission line, knocking out power to more or less the same 2,500 customers that lost their power again on Thursday.

“It is definitely frustrating,” said Sorokin, who on Thursday had decided to stay open despite having to offer a limited menu and lighting. “It makes business difficult.”

Susan Faloon, spokeswoman for Emera Maine, said she can understand the frustration with the power outages, even though they may not have been preventable.

She said that improving service in Bar Harbor has been one of the company’s goals for the past several years, ever since a July 4, 2006 outage affected many downtown businesses.

Faloon said Emera, formerly known as Bangor Hydro, has upgraded some of its equipment in downtown Bar Harbor and its service to Mount Desert Island, adding redundant capacity across the Trenton causeway where a storm knocked over poles in October 2006.

Emera also has been pursuing plans to build a new substation in downtown Bar Harbor, which likely would help reduce the impact of future outages, she added.

She said that, in response to concerns raised by some local residents, the company is considering alternatives to a new substation planned for Woodbury Road, though it still may decide to build on that site.

Emera also may decide to route new power lines along Route 3 rather than along Crooked Road, as some local residents have urged it to do, she added.

If Emera does build a substation on Woodbury Road, Faloon said, it would be a smaller and less visually obtrusive facility than what the company had originally proposed.

“We have been working to address” the need for more reliable service in Bar Harbor, she said.

 

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