EASTPORT — The worst ice storm to hit the Down East area in a century brought Washington County residents back to basics over the weekend as most of the area was without power.
While a storm was raging outside, kids at the Eastport Youth Center, whose families used the facility as a temporary shelter over the weekend, adapted well and held one of the largest slumber parties ever.
While youngsters were frolicking inside, area police officers reported another first outside. The crime rate in Washington County was down over the weekend, except for a couple of thieves who took a safe from Dr. John W. Peterson’s office Sunday night on Court Street in Machias.
“The only good part is that there was nothing in the safe and the doctor was going to get rid of it anyway, but it was too heavy. Maybe they will be coming back with hernia problems,” Machias police Chief Peter Walsh said.
Washington County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Joseph Tibbetts said he believed crime was down because there were so many police officers and deputies on the highways helping area residents find shelter.
In Eastport, people were having fun at the Youth Center. “We have lots of children playing with other children — they are having a great time,” said Eastport resident Caryn Vinson. The shelter has been operated by city officials, Eastport police officers and their spouses.
R&M IGA in Eastport and the Shop ‘n Save in Calais donated food to the shelter and the meals have been hearty. Breakfast included blueberry pancakes and dinners have been delectable beef and venison stews and spaghetti.
Vinson said she had been at the shelter since Friday afternoon. “I was home yesterday to take a bath,” she said with a chuckle.
The situation was far more serious in Lubec, where residents were without power since Friday afternoon. Town Administrator Victoria Dyer said shelters had been set up at the Regional Medical Center at Lubec, Oceanview Nursing Home and Mary S. Pike Hall. “We are ready to take 50 people up here [at the town office] if necessary,” she said.
The county’s two hospitals were operating Monday, but Down East Community Hospital in Machias had to eliminate elective surgery. DECH Chief Executive Officer Ric Hanley said the hospital was back on full power Monday, but he anticipated they would have to go back on auxiliary power Monday night because Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. plans to shift power among the communities affected by the outage. That is not the case at Calais Regional Hospital, where power has been more consistent.
It was not that many years ago that residents at Pleasant Point did not have running water or electricity, so residents there just hunkered down over the weekend and waited. State Tribal Rep. Fred Moore III said that he and members of the tribal council visited homes to make certain people were OK. “It was uncomfortable and cold, but we made do,” Moore said. Moore said elders recalled the period when life on the reservation consisted of “outhouses, kerosene lamps and pails of water.”