MACHIAS, Maine — Emera Maine was busy Monday trying to restore power to a few thousand customers Down East, but the progress was slow because damage from tropical storm Arthur over the holiday weekend was more extensive than first thought.
As the day drew to a close, Monday’s efforts restored power to about 650 customers, leaving an estimated 2,900 still without electricity, with the vast majority of them in Washington County.
Emera Maine reported at 4:40 p.m. that 2,903 customers were still without power: 2,606 in Washington County, 292 in Hancock County, and 122 in Aroostook County.
At the height of the storm Saturday, more than 20,000 customers in Emera Maine’s service area were without power.
“Certainly not the news that we wanted to hear,” said company spokesman Robert Potts, who acknowledged that progress was slow.
Workers in the field and customers reported damage that was more significant than previously believed, according to the company, including broken power lines, utility poles and transformers. In addition, many workers trying to get to areas in order to make repairs found their way blocked by debris and have had to summon contractors to remove it.
“We’re on it,” said Potts. “No contractor or employee is going home until every customer is back on.” Repair crews would be working overnight, he said.
Some customers in Washington and Hancock counties will not have their service restored until the end of Wednesday.
The company had projected earlier that power would be restored to all customers in Washington County by the end of Tuesday and, in Hancock, by midday Tuesday.
Most of the outages were clustered along the coast of Washington and Hancock counties, from Harborside near Penobscot Bay to easternmost Lubec, and also around the cities of Presque Isle and Caribou in Aroostook County.
Although many portions of Lubec were still without power, Town Administrator John Sutherland said Monday morning that the town’s public works employees worked through the weekend and that all roads were passable.
However, trees have knocked down power lines adjacent to some roads, and motorists should use caution in those areas, he said.
A tree fell onto at least one house and a church building, said Sutherland, but he was unsure how badly they were damaged. “All you saw was tree,” he said.
“Considering the severity of the storm, we were lucky,” added Sutherland.
A tree in the backyard of a Lubec home belonging to summer resident Bill Jessee of South Carolina fell between his house and a neighbor’s, striking a glancing blow to the other home. “It could have hit either house,” Jessee observed Monday afternoon.
In nearby Whiting, Harold Crosby, 66, used a chainsaw Monday afternoon to cut up a big tree — he believes it is a Norway maple — in his front yard along U.S. 1. The tree was located near the front of the house, but luckily it fell away from the home. It would have done considerable damage to his house had it fallen in the opposite direction, he acknowledged.
The tree blew down while Crosby was reading the newspaper Saturday morning. “I’d like to know how strong the wind was,” he said.
Eight communities in coastal Washington each had an estimated 100-500 customers without power, Emera Maine reported on its website, and other communities in the region reported lesser outages.
Utility crews from Emera Maine, were being assisted in their restoration efforts by 60 workers from southern Maine, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
High winds, the remnants of Hurricane Arthur, battered eastern Maine on Saturday, and the region also received heavy rain. Strong winds broke limbs and toppled trees, pulling down power lines and breaking utility poles.
There were no storm-related injuries reported in Aroostook County, where the storm brought down tree limbs and power lines from Houlton to Caribou, leaving some residents without electricity for up to 30 hours over the holiday weekend.
“It’s been a challenging restoration because of the amount of damage Down East,” Potts said midmorning Monday. Washington County experienced a lot of broken utility poles and trees fallen on power lines, he noted.
The company is using a barge to send trucks out to the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Mount Desert Island in order to restore power, said Potts.
The company also has a crew in a helicopter, patrolling remote areas to look for damage where larger transmission lines are located, he said.
Potts acknowledged that the circumstances are “very challenging and frustrating” for customers who have been without power now for several days.
“We have deployed every available resource,” he said, in order to help them.
“It’s been a process, but we’re getting there, and we appreciate everyone’s patience.”
Potts issued a reminder not to touch downed power lines or trees that are contacting them.
Emera Maine customers who are without power can call 207-973-2020 to report an outage.
BDN writer Julia Bayly contributed to this report.