And on the 15th day, they slept.
Two weeks and counting after an ice storm ravaged Maine’s power lines, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. said it was time to send its crews home after days of long hours, cold temperatures and heartache.
“Our guys and gals get to go home and sleep,” said Bangor Hydro spokesman Bill Cohen. “We’re in essence done. We believe we’ve had contact with every customer affected by the storm.”
What remain are roughly 30 households scattered throughout eastern Maine that require private work on their lines. While the power company is responsible for the weather heads on top of houses, Cohen explained, residents are responsible for keeping everything else up and running.
Meanwhile, Central Maine Power Co. said it hoped to reach its goal of getting 99 percent of its customers back on line tonight, despite a foreboding weather forecast for the weekend.
The National Weather Service said skies would cloud up Friday, bringing snow to northern Maine. Mixed precipitation is expected in the southern part of the state.
“We’re hoping that will change,” said Meredith Finn, a CMP spokeswoman.
As of Thursday evening, roughly 3,200 CMP customers remained without power — most of them in the Augusta, Lewiston, and Rockland-Belfast regions. With its work mostly finished, Bangor Hydro sent three trucks and a line superintendent to Belfast Thursday to assist in restoration efforts there.
Also Thursday, Bangor Hydro began stringing new power lines along the 8-mile stretch from Deblois to Machias that was devastated at the height of the storm. Cohen said crews have completed one-third of that restoration work, which is scheduled to finish sometime in February.
Those seeking housing in public shelters dwindled to such small numbers that the Maine Emergency Management Agency said it stopped updating its shelter list. At last count Wednesday, 69 people were staying in 23 shelters around the state.
Acccording to Greg Leimbach, assistant operations officer for MEMA, that number has dropped considerably. “We’re not really providing many resources to these shelters anymore,” he said. “It’s no longer a high priority.”
Leimbach said MEMA is now in transition — shifting from emergency assistance to more recovery-related activities. MEMA and its national counterpart, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are stepping up efforts to educate town and city managers about the ways individuals and businesses can recoup their losses through federal disaster aid.
FEMA relief registrations continued to rise Thursday, topping 7,200. Those interested in receiving aid should call FEMA between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. at 1-800-462-9029.
On Thursday, registrations nearly doubled for the second time this week, said FEMA spokesman Pat Maddock. “That’s a real good sign,” he said. “It seems to be working.”