April 02, 2020

Shelters> Hundreds take refuge from cold

Shelters sprang up in schools, town offices and churches around the state Thursday and Friday, as hundreds of people took refuge from homes which the storm had left without electricity.

“Here it is, tent city,” volunteer Pete Hast said Friday, gesturing to the rows of cots set up in the hangar at the Air National Guard headquarters in Bangor.

By 7 a.m. only a few of the 115 people who stayed the night remained snuggled inside khaki-colored sleeping bags. Another influx was expected by nightfall.

Children clutching stuffed animals ran around happily, while adults milled about or sat eating scrambled eggs and doughnuts.

Chief Master Sgt. Debbie Smith of the Maine National Guard said volunteers were kept busy feeding people, helping them call their families and assisting them in the icy walk from the parking lot where they were dropped off by buses provided by the National Guard and Cyr Bus Lines.

“We needed to calm people down,” Smith said. “Many, especially the elderly, need reassurance, so we just sat and talked with them.”

The mood was light Friday morning at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport, where about 20 people spent the night.

“This is just like the Holiday Inn,” said Assistant Pastor Mike Conlon, who sat in the cozy, candlelit basement of the church with other volunteers who said they were looking forward to preparing blueberry pancakes for anyone who wandered in.

In Milford, the Lewis S. Libby School has an oil-fired generator to run the heat, lights and kitchen equipment, among other things.

Though the storm knocked out cable television, kids at the Milford shelter were able to watch movies and play video games on one of the school’s TVs. Fewer than 20 locals spent the night, but the count had grown to nearly 80 by Friday morning. Most in Milford expected the number to grow if the power stayed out and temperatures dropped.

The estimated 50 or so Orono residents who sought warmth at the municipal building might have been the best-fed in the area.

Pat’s Pizza, which has a generator, provided pizzas Thursday night and breakfast Friday.

Nearly 40 elderly Pittsfield residents were playing cards and reading in the Maine Central Institute gymnasium Friday as community members entertained them with live music. More than a dozen MCI students showed up Thursday night to help set up cots and returned Friday to help in any way they could.

People in outlying areas without wood stoves were calling the Pittsfield police for rides to the shelter. Although MCI also lost power Thursday night, a portable generator was being used to keep oxygen tanks running for the elderly.

By 2 p.m. Friday, 50 people were at the Miles Lane school in Bucksport and 30 at the Ellsworth middle school. A bus was bringing people from Blue Hill to Ellsworth later in the afternoon.

About 15 volunteers had set up more cots in the gymasium of the Ellsworth middle school, while culinary arts teacher Brian Langeley served up tomato vegetable soup, coffee, and garlic bread in the cafeteria to the volunteers and more than a dozen seniors from Meadowview Apartments. “I’m 93 years old,” said resident Emily Kane, “and I’ve lived in Maine my whole life and this is the first time I’ve had to be evacuated.”

Howland area residents lost power at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. About 10 people spent Thursday night at the United Methodist Church. The church and the town’s fire station are being powered by a generator. By Friday morning more than 20 people left their cold homes to get shelter and volunteers expected a full house Friday night.

In Waterville, more than 1,000 people were rotating in and out of an emergency shelter set up at the Colby College fieldhouse as power was restored in different sections of the city.

Monroe Emergency Management Director Gene Gibbs set up an emergency shelter at the Monroe Fire Station late Thursday. Gibbs said most of the volunteers spent the night helping to move people without heat to homes of friends and relatives. “Luckily, there have been no real emergencies,” Gibbs said Friday.

In Belfast, emergency shelters were set up at the EMA office and Wldo County Sheriff’s Department as well as at the MBNA facility under construction. Both buildings were running on generated power. County EMA Director Rick Farris said 18 people spent the night at the shelters, but he expected more for Friday. “We’ve got plenty of food and plenty of fuel,” he said.

Over in Searsport, the 25 residents of the Bay View Manor spent Thursday night without power and were being taken to the First Congregational Church to spend Friday, according to Fire Department spokesman Peter King.

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