PORTLAND, Maine — Hurricane Sandy hit Maine on Monday night with wind gusts as high as 64 mph, according to the National Weather Service, and nearly 90,000  Central Maine Power customers had lost power as of 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reported more than 5,500 outages by 4 a.m Tuesday.

Southern Maine took the brunt of the storm Monday, but heavy rains and winds will be an issue for central Maine on Tuesday, which is under a flood watch.

Gov. Paul LePage signed an emergency declaration Monday authorizing state agencies to use all available resources and personnel as necessary to cope with the emergency situation. Robert McAleer, director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said sustained winds of 40 mph could cause power outages for thousands of homes and

Hurricane Sandy, a late-season storm dubbed “Frankenstorm” because it is on track to collide with a wintry storm and Arctic air and also because of its near-Halloween arrival time, has triggered mass closures in the Northeastern United States, where some expect it will cause as much as $1 billion in damage.

Police in the town of Wells issued a voluntary evacuation warning for residents and businesses nearest the coast, where a department announcement said police are expecting 25-foot waves along the coast.

American airline companies have canceled more than 3,000 flights, and the crew of the historic touring tall ship HMS Bounty were forced to abandon the ship off the coast of North Carolina.

All flights but one — to Detroit — scheduled for Monday out of Bangor International Airport were canceled, according to airport director Tony Caruso. Flights scheduled to Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., were canceled, as were all inbound flights from those areas. Two flights from Detroit were expected to arrive as scheduled. The airport also is ready for any overseas flights that may need to be diverted from major hubs.

Nearly all flights scheduled to arrive and depart at Portland International Jetport, which will remain open, were canceled late Monday morning and early afternoon. Travelers are advised to check the jetport website for information about their specific flight.

“A lot of people have contacted their airline directly and started to make arrangements for other travel,” BIA’s Caruso said. “A lot of travelers understand the potential with the storm.”

In Presque Isle, PenAir flights between Boston and the city have been canceled through Tuesday. The airline intends to resume full service Wednesday.

Central Maine Power reported 84,517 homes and businesses without power late Monday evening. Customers in southern coastal areas were the first to feel the effects of the storm, with more than 64,000 outages in York and Cumberland counties at 11:30 p.m. Reports of outages began in the early afternoon, but rose rapidly after 3 p.m. CMP expected the outage count to climb as high winds spread over the state.

Canadian utility crews are on hand to assist their Maine counterparts with restoring power if it’s lost, LePage said Monday afternoon during a prestorm news conference in Augusta. He said there are also two Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives in Maine to assist with storm preparations and recovery.

LePage said Maine expects to release its power crews Tuesday to help out in other states hit harder by Sandy. “We’re hoping we don’t get hit as bad,” he said.

Nicole Clegg, spokeswoman for the city of Portland, said the city has stationed additional emergency responders on Peaks, the most populous of the Casco Bay islands, in anticipation of the storm, among other coastal preparations.

“We’re increasing our staffing on Peaks Island,” she said. “Because of the high seas that are expected, we want to make sure there are people who are out there who can respond. … We’ve pulled in floats from Little Diamond [Island], the Maine State Pier and the East End Beach.”

Al Bleau, head of Peaks Island’s Community Emergency Response Team, said that in addition to an extra police officer and firefighter — each with EMT training — on Peaks, island volunteers were positioned to prepare at least three emergency shelters if necessary and make generators available to deploy for people living with medical devices. He said his CERT team is expecting a delivery of fresh water from Portland to distribute if needed.

Access to the islands was scheduled to be restricted Monday evening, as the U.S. Coast Guard announced plans to close the Port of Portland to all traffic because of the storm. Casco Bay Lines, which provides ferry service to the islands, announced that its last departure from Portland to Peaks Island would be at 5:35 p.m., while a 6 p.m. return from the island would be the last of the night.

Information about service to other islands Monday evening can be found at the Casco Bay Lines Facebook page.

Despite the worst-case-scenario planning taking place on the island, Bleau said many islanders aren’t breaking a sweat over the incoming hurricane.

“They’ll pretty much stay in denial until they see it arrive,” he said. “They see all these big storms that form and then nothing happens [locally].”

On Mount Desert Island, many area fishermen had moved their boats to sheltered moorings or marina slips in Northeast Harbor and Somesville to ride out the storm. A large rental generator had been set up in Southwest Harbor outside the back door of Sawyer’s Market on Main Street to power the store’s coolers and freezers if the electricity goes out.

Stuart West, Acadia National Park’s head ranger, said Monday that rangers had closed Blackwoods Campground until at least Tuesday morning. If a lot of trees blow over during the night, he said, it may remain closed until Wednesday. Seawall Campground already is closed for the winter, he said.

West said rangers plan to close down Ocean Drive on MDI, where the Park Loop Road passes Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cove, and Schoodic Loop Road on the eastern side of Frenchman Bay, when it gets dark on Monday.

Waves along the coast could get as high as 19 feet Monday night and into early Tuesday, West said. High tide was expected again around midnight at most areas of the Maine coast. On Tuesday, the tide is expected to reach its peak height around noon but then not again until early Wednesday, after midnight, as seas continue to subside.

West said he does not expect to have the same number of sightseers along Acadia’s shore for Sandy as there were in August 2009, when Hurricane Bill kicked up the surf along Maine’s coast. In that storm, a 7-year-old girl died after a large wave crashed over her and other sightseers near Thunder Hole and then pulled them into the sea.

West said that incident happened on a sunny weekend day in the summer — all conditions that belied the danger posed by the storm’s large waves. He said that while Sandy’s effects are being felt, people who travel along Ocean Drive should not go down on the rocks toward the water.

“Please stay up along the pavement and bring a longer lens” for taking photographs, he said.

The Department of Marine Resources is instituting an emergency flood clam/shellfish closure along the coast effective midnight tonight due to heavy rains, and will re-evaluate the situation Tuesday and Wednesday.

Portland Public Schools, which includes an elementary school on Peaks Island, closed an hour early Monday, and all after-school activities were canceled.

“This decision is based on forecasted high winds and the need to get students and staff home safely on buses and ferries,” Peter Eglinton, the district’s chief operations officer, said in a morning announcement.

University of New England closed at noon Monday and will remain closed throughout the day Tuesday, while the University of Southern Maine told employees it would close at 4 p.m. Monday. Portland City Hall and all campuses of Southern Maine Community College closed at 3 p.m. because of the forecast wind and rain as well.

The city of Portland’s Oxford Street Shelter opened earlier in the day than usual on Monday for those experiencing homelessness, and city workers were “traveling to known camping sites” in the area offering rides to the shelter to members of the homeless population.

Portland residents who see downed limbs in city streets are being urged to call the public services department at 874-8493.

In Rockland, the city announced Monday morning that the Marie “Sis” Reed Breakwater Park and the breakwater would be closed to foot traffic until further notice because of the unpredictability of the waves. Schools in Knox County were being closed early.

In Scarborough, police are asking that parents abstain from taking children out trick-or-treating on Wednesday night in anticipation of wires still being down or other leftover damage from the storm. Instead, town police are urging residents to use Saturday for their Halloween festivities.

The campaign of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Summers urged supporters to bring in signs supporting him until the storm had passed.

Bangor Daily News writers Ryan McLaughlin, Stephen Betts, Bill Trotter, Jen Lynds and Matthew Stone and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.