Despite a blinding snowstorm that blanketed much of the state Tuesday, power crews continued to make headway in their efforts to restore power to homes left in the dark by the Ice Storm of ’98.
Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reported less than 50 homes that still had no power after 13 days, and approximately 14,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers remained without service as of late Tuesday — down from 275,000 at the height of the ice storm’s fury.
As power restoration entered its final stages, scores of residents and businesspeople turned their attention to recouping the enormous financial losses incurred in this year’s storm.
Registrations for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency skyrocketed this week. Total registrations now exceed 2,500, up from roughly 700 on Saturday, with a large number of registrations coming from Penobscot and Waldo counties.
“People are just becoming aware of the phone number,” said Jennifer Logan, FEMA spokeswoman. Hours for the line were expanded by an additional hour Tuesday to handle the volume of calls. To register with FEMA, call 1-800-462-9029 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
At Augusta’s emergency “bunker,” officials said they stopped keeping an official tally of the storm’s cost after Gov. Angus King applied for federal disaster relief last week. At the time, storm damage was estimated at $6.2 million.
“Obviously, we know it’s way beyond that,” said Master Sgt. Allyson Cox of the Army National Guard, who was helping out at the bunker Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, King asked Vice President Al Gore for federal assistance to curb the impact of possible electric rate increases due to the storm. Already, CMP and Bangor Hydro have estimated their storm-related damage and repairs will exceed $50 million.
Though Tuesday’s snowfall accounted for scattered outages throughout the state, power company officials said it had little effect on their long-range efforts to restore power to those affected by the more devastating ice storm.
Outages were reported in Charleston and Bradford early Tuesday evening. According to CMP officials, poor driving conditions in the Belfast-Rockland area hampered restoration efforts there.
With a large number of residents without power located in Augusta, Bridgton and Lewiston, CMP has moved into the “labor-intenstive stage” of their efforts, said spokesman Mark Ishkanian.
“With a restoration of a major line, we could get 2,000 to 5,000 people restored,” he said. “Now, we’re talking about getting two to five customers on line at a time.”
Of roughly 200 open service orders for Bangor Hydro Tuesday, fewer than 35 were related to the ice storm. Those were relegated mostly to the rural Hancock County towns of Otis, Mariaville and Lucerne.
“We just got hammered down there,” said Bangor Hydro spokesman Bill Cohen. “They needed extensive work and the roads are difficult.”
Cohen predicted ice-related power outages would be remedied within the next two days. For those in CMP’s coverage area, the end may not come until early next week, Ishkanian said.
In further evidence of the state’s recovery, shelters continued to close Tuesday. Twenty-three shelters remained open Tuesday, housing 217 people. At one time, nearly 3,000 people were living in nearly 200 shelters.