April 03, 2020

Waterville official: It’s `unbelievable’

WATERVILLE — Although the situation “remains under control” in Waterville, Mayor Ruth Joseph confirmed Monday afternoon that the city is still in a state of emergency, and National Guard troops remained in the city to help with cleanup and relief.

“I don’t want to be pessimistic,” said Joseph, “but we are not gaining at this point.”

To make matters worse, Waterville public works crews were gearing up for another winter storm, expected to dump another 2 inches of snow and sleet on Maine today.

“Many of our homes and businesses are still without power,” said Joseph. “We will have no school Tuesday, and there is a chance that will be extended.”

The mayor had high praise for Colby College, which has opened its athletic field house since last week as a temporary shelter.

“Colby has been exceptional,” said Joseph. “They expanded their staff, their security staff and their food service to take care of these people.”

The shelter had a peak of 485 people over the weekend, but was down to just over 200 on Monday.

“Many people are leaving the shelter as relatives and friends in other communities regain power,” said the mayor. “We still have 20,000 residents without electricity. People are still very cold.”

In addition, Waterville Fire Chief Darryl Fournier said 15 Colby football players were conducting a door-to-door, neighborhood-by-neighborhood search of Waterville homes looking for victims of the cold.

“If they find anyone, they will contact the Fire Department, and we will make emergency arrangements,” said the chief.

Joseph said she has been staying at a Waterville motel and that 15 out-of-state power crews have been residing there as well.

“We still have 50 power poles down,” said the city official.

Although the emergency is far from over, Joseph said some of Waterville’s stores, particularly the larger grocery stores, are open for business, running on generators. “It’s been very hard for us to get the word out, since people can’t listen to their radios or televisions,” she said.

Fournier said firefighters were busy Monday going back to homes that the evacuated elderly had left, to retrieve missing medications.

“This is still unbelievable,” said Fournier. “This situation is beginning to feel normal.”

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