BANGOR — The waitress already knew who drinks decaf and who drinks regular coffee, so she filled the linemen’s cups as they straggled into Barnaby’s Restaurant at the Ramada Inn in Bangor just before 6 a.m. Sunday.
Commonwealth Electric Co. employees from Massachusetts are staying at the hotel while they assist Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. workers in restoring power to the area.
Roy DeBettencourt and Fred Natusch traveled by ferry and truck in the freezing rain from their homes on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The trip in their cherry-picker truck took almost 13 hours. They finally arrived about 6 a.m. Friday. They expect to be in the area at least a week, working 16-hour days alongside local workers.
The two men are among more than 100 crews representing companies from several states helping to relieve Maine power workers in the wake of last week’s ice storm.
DeBettencourt and Natusch spent Saturday working in Glenburn with Mark Lagasse of Bangor Hydro and were able to restore power to a 4 1/2-mile stretch on the Pushaw Road. Lagasse said their priorities Sunday would be to get the school and Sunny Gables, the town’s housing complex where many elderly people live, back on line.
“If we had no trees, we could have done 10 or 15 miles,” said Lagasse as he filled his plate at the restaurant’s breakfast buffet. “We spent some time yesterday redoing what we’d done Friday because lines came down again. Everything’s so weighted down with ice.”
Lagasse, who lives in Glenburn, did not expect he would be able to restore power to his own home Sunday. “We’re doing the main lines first, and then we’ll go back and do the side lines off those.
“When we had Hurricane Bob, I worked two weeks staight on the Cape [Cod],” said DeBettencourt, who had been only as far north as Freeport before last week. “That’s the only thing comparable to this kind of tree damage that I’ve ever seen. Of course, that was August and it was a lot warmer. We need a 40-degree day with sun all day long to make some real progress.”
Natusch said they’d been lucky because the winds had been so calm, under 10 mph. He and other crew members were prepared for a temperature drop, having packed their insulated overalls, coats and thermal underwear.
Lagasse had not worked the lines for six years when he took Debettencourt and Natusch out Saturday. He said that although he recently has been sitting at a desk working on Bangor Hydro’s computerized mapping program, he hasn’t forgotten how to work atop an electrical pole.
“These guys have been making fun of the way I tie my knots,” he admitted. “But the customers have been wonderful. Yesterday a man brought us coffee and doughnuts while we were working. When people see us drive by, they give us the thumbs-up sign and wave.”