Residents without power share Christmas spirit at shelter; crews make progress

Posted Dec. 25, 2013, at 11:56 a.m.
Last modified Dec. 26, 2013, at 9:08 a.m.

BREWER, Maine — Terry Bryer left the American Red Cross shelter at the Brewer Auditorium about noon and returned to her home on Day Road.

She discovered the power still was out, but that wasn’t the primary reason Bryer stopped at the house. She went back to pick up the fixings for the Christmas dinner she had planned to share with family members.

The dinner was nothing special — spaghetti, garlic bread and a tossed salad, Bryer, 60, said.

“But today is Christmas and the spirit of Christmas is around us regardless of where we are,” she said. “We are a little family, a community here.”

Bryer, whose husband, Bill Bryer, 62, is disabled by a stroke, could not properly care for him in their cold, dark house. After first going to Eastern Maine Medical Center on Tuesday, the couple decided to go to the shelter, where there is a nurse on duty.

The Bryers were two of 16 people at the Brewer Auditorium about 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to Matt McDade, the shelter manager. Seven people slept over on cots on Christmas Eve. The shelter opened Tuesday morning.

Joseph Van Dykes Jr., 68, of Holden came in after his daughter, who lives in Holden, Mass., “harassed” him into going to the shelter, he said. Van Dykes, who lives in a trailer park, spent part of Tuesday sitting in his running car to stay warm and to keep his breathing machine, which requires power, charged and working.

“It’s been good here,” the former carpenter said of the shelter. “I call home every so often. When the answering machine comes on, I’ll know I have power again.”

Fewer than 33,000 Mainers remained without power at 6:30 a.m. Thursday as temperatures refused to climb above the freezing mark. More than 71,000 were without power Wednesday morning.

Power companies worked to restore power, with crews expected from as far away as New Jersey to give local workers some relief. Power in most areas was expected to be restored by late Friday, according to the state’s major providers of electricity.

Central Maine Power reported 23,760 utility customers without power at 7:20 a.m. Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co. reported 9,007 outages Thursday morning.

“That is down from a peak of more than 87,000 Christmas Eve morning [in CMP’s service area],” CMP spokesman John Carroll in a press release. “The utility estimates that more than 123,000 customers have lost their power at some point since the icing that began early Monday.”

Kennebec and Waldo counties appeared to be the hardest hit in CMP’s service areas, with 21,023 and 9,375 without power, respectively. Both numbers were reduced by 6:30 a.m. Thursday, with 11,648 without power in Kennebec County and 6,265 without power in Waldo County.

More than 9,000 of Bangor Hydro’s customers in Hancock County and more than 5,000 in Penobscot County were waiting for power to be restored at midday Wednesday. By 5:15 a.m. Thursday, 7,692 were still without power in Hancock County, 3,496 were without power in Penobscot County and 529 were without power in Washington County.

No outages were reported in Aroostook or Piscataquis counties, which received snow rather than ice earlier this week.

Extensive tree damage was the biggest problem crews were reporting Christmas Day, Susan Faloon, spokeswoman for Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service, said in a press release. Crews from out of state were expected to work through the night to relieve local workers.

“CMP has increased its storm recovery workforce to 1,800 in its efforts to repair damage from the ice storm that struck Maine,” Carroll said. “With the addition of the crews who arrived last night, we increased our counts to 455 line crews and 330 tree crews. Today, we’ll have at least one full restoration team on every circuit serving every community where we have outages.”

Warming centers and shelters remained open in affected areas but began closing Wednesday morning once power was restored in some communities. Two dozen shelters remained open at 5 p.m., according to information posted on the Maine Emergency Management Agency’s website.

A winter weather advisory for snow was issued Wednesday afternoon by the National Weather Service in Gray for the midcoast region to Augusta, the area hardest hit by the ice storm. Three to 6 inches of snow were predicted. Snow could change to rain along the immediate coastline, the advisory said.

A similar advisory was issued for the northern half of the state. Three to 6 inches of snow were predicted to fall Thursday night into Friday morning.