WATERVILLE — By Thursday, Annette Aubuchon of Benton and her three young children had spent eight days at the Waterville area storm shelter.
Home had become the Colby College Field House, and although the electricity had been restored to her home, Aubuchon still had no heat.
“We’ll be here for a while,” she said.
That news delighted her oldest son, Michael, 12. “This is really like an adventure,” he said. With a full-size basketball court next door, Michael Aubuchon has spent more than a week “playing hoops, making friends and watching movies.”
Mom wasn’t quite as excited.
“I woke up last Thursday feeling cold and looked out the window and saw it was a mess. It’s still a mess,” said Annette Aubuchon.
Waterville Fire Chief Darryl Fournier said that Central Maine Power made “considerable progress” Thursday.
“I even have power back at my home,” he added. “Things are starting to get back to normal.”
Eight days ago, Aubuchon and her children — Michael, 12, Sheanna, 7, and Sierra, 5 — first headed to the Hinckley School in Fairfield, but when the school also lost electricity, they drove to Colby.
“We just moved here from Palermo,” she said. “I’ve made plenty of new friends.” Although Aubuchon stressed the good points of living for more than a week in a field house — “there’s been live entertainment and the Colby kids have provided lots of activities for the kids” — there is definitely a downside.
At its peak, the field house fed and sheltered 900 people by day, 487 by night.
“When you put 500 people in a big room, even a room this big, the noise level is unbelievable,” said Aubuchon. “Even at night, there was a constant hum, like a beehive. And the lights have to be left on for security reasons. It’s been really hard to sleep.”
During the day, Aubuchon said, she often lost track of her kids. “There were more than 40 of them most of the time,” she said, “and they might be playing a game or watching a movie.” Waterville school buses came to the shelter every hour bringing people back home to get fresh clothes or to check on their pets or to just take them downtown to shop. “Some people just rode the bus to get away from here for a little while,” she said.
To keep herself busy, Aubuchon volunteered to answer phones and file. “Sometimes I would just sit and talk to some of the elderly people. They were pretty scared,” she said.
“They are all used to their own quiet little places,” Aubuchon continued. “This was just too much commotion for them.”
Judy Garnett of Clinton, a Red Cross volunteer, said everyone got along extremely well during the past week.
“We had a whole bunch of people try to smuggle their dogs in inside their coats,” said Garnett. “And one person brought a canary in, hidden inside a laundry basket covered with a towel. The bird got loose a few nights ago and was flying all over the place. We can’t seem to find it now, though.”
Garnett said the three dozen residents still remaining in the shelter Thursday afternoon would be moved to Mount Merici School. Fournier confirmed that the shelter will remain open for food and overnight accommodations until at least Saturday.