Nearly half a million Mainers are without electricity Monday, after a storm bringing high winds and heavy rains ravaged the state Sunday night into Monday.
Maine’s two power providers, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, estimate it could be days before power is fully restored.
As of 4 p.m. Monday, Central Maine Power reported roughly 385,000 customers were without power ― more than 60 percent of the utility’s customer base. Emera Maine reported that more than 89,000 of its customers were without power.
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“This is the largest number of outages in the company’s history. It is significantly larger than the 1998 ice storm that people remember so well,” CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said in a release.
Central Maine Power deployed 100 of its own two-man crews, plus 105 crews from contractors in Maine and New Brunswick and 108 tree crews to deal with the storm damage, according to Rice.
Due to the extent of the outages, and high winds causing dangerous working conditions for crews, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine said it could take several days to complete storm repairs. Crews are prioritizing work on grounding downed power lines that pose a risk to emergency responders and the public.
“We know we are looking at days,” said Mike Herrin, chief operating officer for Emera Maine. “Once the second wind peak hits this afternoon, and we are able to fully assess damage, we will better know what we are looking at for a restoration time.”
A Central Maine Power spokeswoman said restoration estimates for specific areas are not expected to be available Monday.
“The region is still experiencing strong winds, which create dangerous conditions for service restoration,” Rice said in an earlier statement. “Our first priority is public safety, and crews are busy grounding and de-energizing downed lines so they don’t pose a danger to first responders or the public. This critical step needs to be completed before restoration can begin.”
The power outages spared no county Monday, though a high proportion of outages were concentrated in southern Maine and coastal counties. More than half of Central Maine Power customers in Cumberland, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo, Hancock and York counties were without power.
The widespread power outages led to school cancellations and delays on Monday, and leaving several hospitals operating off of emergency generators.
St. Joseph Healthcare on Monday morning canceled scheduled appointments for all patients at family medicine and specialist locations in Greater Bangor, while St. Joseph Hospital canceled surgical procedures because of the risk of power interruptions, according to Michael McCarty, communications associate for St. Joseph Healthcare.
The University of Maine in Orono also canceled classes shortly before 11 a.m. Monday as a result of ongoing power outages and storm damage.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency announced Monday afternoon that it was working with U.S. customs officials to allow Canadian utility crews into Maine to help with line work.
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