As Maine’s two major utility companies revised total restoration time estimates to indicate that work would not be done until late Saturday, communities across Maine are coping with the reality of being without power for several days.
As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Central Maine Power reported that about 168,000 customers remained without power, down from a peak of more than 400,000 customers without power Monday.
By early Wednesday evening, Emera Maine, which services most of the northern part of the state, reported that about 36,800 of its customers remained without power.
The damage caused by Monday’s storm is considered worse than the ice storm of 1998. It could take weeks to fully grasp the cost of the damage it caused, according to the Maine Emergency Management Agency. On Wednesday, Susan Faloon, spokeswoman for MEMA, announced that the state would apply for federal disaster aid to help pay for cleanup and repair.
While work is not done clearing roads and restoring power, MEMA is confident things should be getting back to some sense of normalcy in the coming days.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but it’s apparent to me that we’re heading in the right direction,” MEMA operations staffer Kevin Rousseau said at a news conference Wednesday.
As hundreds of line repair and tree crews work around the clock across the state, utility companies are beginning to release estimated restoration times for areas still without power.
On Tuesday night, Emera Maine said 90 percent of customers in northern Penobscot and Piscataquis counties can expect to have their power restored by 10 p.m. Thursday, with almost all remaining customers being restored by the end of the day Friday.
In southern Penobscot County — including Greater Bangor and the Orono/Old Town area — and Hancock County, Emera expects to restore power to 90 percent of customers by 10 p.m. Friday with remaining outages being restored by the end of day Saturday.
Central Maine Power is updating its estimated restoration times online as assessments of outage areas are being complete. Currently, restoration times stretch into Saturday by 10 p.m.; however, many towns are still being assessed.
Waldo, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties along the coast continue to languish in the aftermath of damage to Maine’s power grid. In Georgetown, where nearly every customer remained without power at midday Wednesday, CMP expects to restore power by Friday at 10 p.m., but restoration data are not complete for all Sagadahoc towns.
In Waldo County, CMP data Wednesday morning showed that every customer in Palermo and Monroe remained without power while the majority of customers in Winterport and Burnham were without electricity.
Getting the state back to a level of normalcy is a challenge, Rousseau said, given that ― aside from northern counties ― the storm spared no one.
Roads across the state are continuing to reopen as downed power lines and trees are safely removed, according to MEMA. However, at Wednesday’s news conference, Maine State Police Chief Robert Williams said it will likely be at least Saturday until most roads are clear.
Williams urged folks who are still trapped on their roads by downed trees not to take it upon themselves to remove them. If downed wires are on the trees, the risk of electrocution is present.
Given the scope of the storm, the lack of storm-related injuries is impressive, Williams said.
“We’ve been fortunate that there were no serious injuries,” Williams said. “If we get through this without a death we’ll be extremely fortunate.”
With rampant damage to utility poles and power lines, utility companies have enlisted the help of out-of-state utility crews to help bring Mainers back online.
Crews from Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky already have arrived in Maine to assist, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland. Crews from Illinois are on their way, and crews from Canada also have crossed the border to help restoration efforts.
“I know, of course, it can be frustrating to the individual person who does not have power right now. But rest assured, the cavalry is here,” Rousseau said.
McCausland warned that the outages are also affecting many Amtrak and Pan Am railroad crossings, which means no signals or crossing gates at those sites are operating. Motorists must use caution when crossing those tracks.
Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service was down Monday and Tuesday because of power outages. On Wednesday the passenger rail service released a modified schedule, which replaced rail service north of Wells with buses.
Cellphone and internet coverage is spotty in many areas because of the outages, even in areas where power has been restored. However, McCausland said service inconsistencies likely are localized issues with the cellphone and internet providers, or generators that power their towers or systems.
Power outages also continue to affect municipal and governmental operations. The West Bath District Court and the Bath Superior Court are unable to send and receive phone calls, forcing proceedings scheduled for the West Bath District Court to be moved to the Sagadahoc County Superior Court.
Due to power outages a number of schools across the state are still not back in session as of Wednesday, with 34 of Maine’s 242 school districts remaining closed, according to Maine Department of Education information released by MEMA. Additionally, 12 school districts are at least partially closed.
The Maine Department of Education issued a memo Wednesday, informing school districts that cancellations associated with this week’s storm should be treated like any other weather-related closures, and that the state of emergency declared by Gov. Paul LePage on Monday does not waive requirements that schools offer a minimum of 175 days of instruction each academic year.
MEMA plans to offer another update on storm damage and repair Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
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