Utility companies have returned power to about 75 percent of the nearly 500,000 Mainers who lost electricity as a result of Monday’s powerful wind and rain storm.
As of 4:45 p.m. Thursday, Central Maine Power reported that about 110,000 customers remained without power, down from a peak of more than 400,000 customers without power on Monday.
Emera Maine had about 24,000 customers without power Thursday morning, down from the nearly 90,000 customers at the peak of outage.
Both companies are projecting that the bulk of power restoration work will be done by late Saturday night. At a press conference Thursday, representatives from CMP and Emera Maine said that while they have been exceeding restoration goals throughout the week, the last areas to be restored are going to be the toughest due to accessibility.
“We’re reducing [the outage number] by 100,000 a day,” CMP President Sarah Burns said, according to a WGME report. “As we get closer to the end, we have the harder and harder work to do. We are on the rural roads. We are working in some very tough circumstances.”
Repair crews have fanned out across the state since Monday, working to bring Mainers out of the dark and back to some semblance of normalcy. Crews from other states and Canada joined those from Maine utilities to increase the workforce to more than 2,000 people working around the clock to restore power.
Central Maine Power said its workforce climbed to 2,300 people Thursday, including field personnel, tree, line and substation repair crews.
In a Thursday morning interview on WVOM radio, Emera Maine spokeswoman Judy Long said the utility that services most of northern Maine has more than 500 people working to restore power to customers in its region.
For Mainers still without power, about 90 warming shelters have been set up from York County to Mount Desert Island, where folks can find a warm spot and charge their electronic devices.
The damage and power outages caused by Monday’s storm surpass that of the 1998 ice storm. The Maine Emergency Management Agency said it could take weeks to know the total cost of damage. On Wednesday, Susan Faloon, a MEMA spokeswoman, said the state would apply for federal disaster aid to help pay for cleanup and repair.
At Thursday’s news conference, acting MEMA director Peter Rogers said the agency is working to compile information information needed to apply for the federal disaster declaration, according to a WMTW-TV report.
To qualify for federal disaster aid, damages caused by the storm in Maine must surpass $1.9 million, Rogers said. The damage figures are compiled beginning at the municipal level, which then go to county emergency management agencies and then to MEMA.
Rogers said it is going to take days to pull this information together.
“We’re still in a response-and-recovery mode, so we’re trying to do two things at once,” Rogers said.
Rogers also urged individuals to take photos, save receipts and collect data on damages to their personal property, in case individual federal assistance becomes available. Rogers said it is too early to know whether that will be a possibility.
In addition to power outages, crews across the state are continuing to clear roads that remain blocked from downed trees and debris. Maine State Police Chief Robert Williams said Wednesday it will take until Saturday for a majority of the roads to be cleared.
With the majority of state roads being reopened, road closures remain mostly on the local level. The Lincoln County News compiled a list from the county’s Emergency Management Agency of roads that remained closed as of Wednesday night.
The Maine Department of Transportation is urging the public not to try to remove downed trees blocking roadways on their own. They also ask people not to remove traffic cones or safety barriers.
Given the scope of the storm and damage, public safety officials and utility representatives say it is impressive that no storm-related injuries or deaths have been reported.
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