Calling Saturday’s nor’easter “one of the biggest storms in terms of damage this century,” the head of Central Maine Power Co. said Monday that customers in the hardest-hit areas of the state may be without power until Wednesday.
David Flanagan, executive chairman of CMP, said the biggest challenges are 185 broken poles along with trees downed by heavy snow and ice, many of them in Oxford, northern Cumberland, Somerset, Kennebec and Piscataquis counties, which he said were the areas most affected by the storm.
“Each pole requires considerable time, work and crews to get back in place,” he said.
Right after the storm some 233,000 CMP customers were without power, and all but 60,000 have had power restored as of Monday. Most in Piscataquis, Somerset and Kennebec counties can expect to have power back by Tuesday night. Those in Franklin and northern Cumberland counties are expected to see power back by Wednesday night, Flanagan said. The company has about 630,000 customers in central and southern Maine.
Flanagan said CMP has more than 1,500 workers trying to restore power, 200 of them its own linesmen plus contract workers from Maine and out-of-state partners. The company is redeploying crews once they are finished in other parts of the state to the hard-hit areas, he said.
Despite efforts to prepare for storms by cutting trees in its rights of way, Flanagan said, many of the downed trees are large and have fallen from outside of the area where it is allowed to cut them down.
Versant Power, formerly Emera Maine, had about 27,000 customer outages at its peak but now has 1,700 without service, spokesperson Judy Long said. Work to restore customers on a couple of circuits in the Milo and Brownville areas may take until tomorrow because of the scope of the damage, she said.
Both CMP and Versant’s predecessor have been criticized in the past for not responding quickly enough to storm outages, including an October 2017 windstorm that knocked out power to some customers for up to a week and caused the state’s energy regulator to investigate.
Last month, J.D. Power ranked CMP the lowest on its satisfaction survey of business customers of 88 electric utilities nationwide. It was the third year in a row that CMP was ranked last as it deals with fierce opposition to its $1 billion proposed hydropower corridor through western Maine.