BANGOR — The heat was back on and the lights glowing once again in several thousand more Maine homes as daylight began to fade Monday, the 12th day of Ice Storm ’98: The Recovery.
As the restoration effort continues its steady march toward full power, emergency shelters are closing and the Maine National Guard operation is winding down, but long-term disaster relief efforts continue to gain momentum.
About 22,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers were still without service Monday evening, down from a peak outage of 275,000 homes.
“We have been able to clear three districts and are sending additional crews into the hardest hit areas to speed the restoration there,” said CMP spokesman Mark Ishkanian. “The majority of customers still without power should be back on line in the next few days, but completing this effort may take all of this week”
Customers still without power whose account numbers begin with the numerals 514 or 535 are asked to call in to reconfirm their outage. This will enable CMP crews to pinpoint individual problems that need to be resolved.
With the number of outages falling, CMP on Sunday switched back to its normal telephone system — which gives callers the option of speaking with a service representative — after using a completely automated system in the days immediately following the Jan. 8 storm to make sure no emergency calls were lost.
Linda Lord of Brooks, who was among those without power Monday afternoon, was still unable to connect with a living, breathing human being at CMP — until she learned it was necessary to first walk through a long list of automated commands before the longed-for human voice would be heard.
She finally did talk to “a very nice man” named Jim, and learned that it would be at least Thursday and probably Sunday before she would have power again.
“He apologized for not being able to give me good news,” Lord said with a laugh.
Also Monday evening, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reported that it had 213 open service orders, but that only about 50 or 60 of those represented households without power.
“We’ve been steady at about 200 all day,” said Bangor Hydro spokesperson Bill Cohen. “We’ve got lots of people out working but it appears that a lot of people with seasonal homes, or people who have power but want to report trees on lines, are calling in.”
Of the actual outages, Cohen said about 33 were on one circuit in Otis and Mariaville, and another 22 in the Nicolin area. He expected both areas to be restored Monday night.
“Once they’re back,” he said, “there are no large outages anywhere.”
While some out-of-state crews continue to work alonside Bangor Hydro’s own crews to complete the repairs, Cohen said some, including some Massachusetts crews, are starting to head home.
Shelter-bound Mainers also continue to head home. About 30 shelters were still open Monday, housing about 270 people. At one time, nearly 3,000 people were living in nearly 200 shelters.
Also, the City of Bangor will end its storm related emergency food program today. Applications will be taken until 2:30 p.m. at the Health and Welfare Department.
Nonetheless, anyone who has emergency needs, such as food, shelter, clothing or home damage as a direct result of the storm, can contact the Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross in Bangor at 941-2903, or simply walk in to the Red Cross Disaster Service Center at 33 Mildred Avenue off Hammond Street in Bangor.
The number of Maine National Guard troops involved in the recovery effort is also on the decline. On Monday 651 Army and Air National Guard troops were working, primarily in the hard-hit Augusta, Bridgton and Lewiston areas, as well as in parts of Washington county. About 500 of those are citizen-soldiers who were called into state active duty during the crisis.
The call-up ends Tuesday, according to Capt. Susan Wallace. Selected units may continue on state active duty as needed, she said, but there may be other ways to get the work done.
“There are still people without power.” she said. “There are still lines that need to be cleared and we will continue to do those things until they are done.”
Some of the work, however, like recovering, cleaning and cataloging bulldozers and generators that have been used during the emergency, could be done during regularly scheduled drill periods.
Mainers in need of disaster relief assistance got a boost Monday when the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was drawing up guidelines to reimburse some of the hundreds of storm-affected residents who bought generators.
During a meeting of federal and state officials at the state Capitol, FEMA representative Jack Sullivan said the policy would cover Mainers who bought generators to prevent damage to their homes.
Details still are being worked out, such as the period of time that will be covered and whether there will be a reimbursement cap.
Sullivan also said FEMA officials also were looking at possibly including fire wood and carbon monoxide detectors as reimbursable expenses.
FEMA’s Lynette Miller said Monday that much more information about the program will be available in the next day or so.
“The big message now,” she said, “is [for Mainers] to check with their insurance companies and register with FEMA to get in the pipeline.”
In the meantime, FEMA officials want to stresss to residents that, while a number of programs are available to both individuals and businesses, the first step in receiving any disaster assistance is to register with FEMA by calling 1-(800) 462-9029 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Hearing or speech-impaired persons may call TTY (800) 462-7585.
Damage inspectors are now in the field visiting people who have applied for disaster assistance, according to Federal Coordinating Officer Bob Teeri and State Coordinating Officer Bill Libby. Inspection to verify loss is the second step in the process. Applicants who have already started repairs should save photographs of the damage, if possible, and all relevant receipts. Within two weeks of inspection, the applicant should receive word as to eligibility for a grant or loan.
All of Maine’s 16 counties have been named disaster areas by President Clinton. As of Saturday, 698 Mainers had applied for aid.