OTIS – The primary topic of conversation in Hancock County the week of Jan. 12 was who had power and who didn’t. By Jan. 19, however, life had returned to normal for all but a few hundred weary residents who were starting their 12th day without electricity.
Most of the power outages were concentrated along dirt roads in rural Otis and Mariaville, two of the hardest-hit towns in the county, where the snowbanks along the road were piled high with brush and sawed-off tree limbs.
“I’m at the end of my rope,” Sylvia Hodgdon said Jan. 19. She lives on the West Shore Road in Otis with two cats.
As proprietor of Sylvia’s Cafe in Ellsworth, she has found the ice storm great for business. About 200 Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and Bell Atlantic workers have been eating daily at the restaurant.
But after about a week, said Hodgdon, her frustration was mounting. When the line workers told her Jan. 18 that she might have to wait until the 19th for power, “it was all I could do to keep from crying,” Hodgdon said.
After 13 nights spent sleeping on sofas at friends’ houses, or huddled around a propane heater in her dark house, all she wanted was a good night’s sleep. “I’ve had an average of three-four hours of sleep a night,” she said. “I’m ready for a good eight hours.”
Besides the Otis-Mariaville area, power also was out on a few scattered areas around the three lakes in North Ellsworth and on private ways in Bucksport. Utility crews from Central Maine Power Co. and Bangor Hydro worked Jan. 19 on side roads in Bucksport, and on West Shore Road and Bunker Road, both on Beech Hill Pond in Otis.
At noon, Bob and Betty O’Keefe of Bunker Road flicked on their lights for the first time in 12 days. Bob O’Keefe started resetting their home’s many clocks, while Betty O’Keefe put in the first of many loads of laundry.
“There’s so much to do, I don’t know where to start,” said Betty O’Keefe. The couple bought a generator several years ago, which kept the house heated and the TV on. To save energy, they didn’t use the lights or the stove or the water heater for they’d never put their generator through such a test before.
“That old baby just pegged and pegged away,” Bob O’Keefe said admiringly. Still, he said he won’t miss lying awake at night hoping it didn’t break down. The couple also looked forward to hot water, after more than a week of sponge baths.
“She soaks in the bathtub and I love hot showers,” said Bob O’Keefe. “So we’ll be doing that.”
Despite the long days of waiting, residents had nothing but praise for Bangor Hydro workers. Bob O’Keefe offered to buy coffee and doughnuts for the crew, many of whom came from Massachusetts, but they refused, saying it would slow them down. By midafternoon on the 19th, just 55 residents in the Otis-Mariaville area were still without power, said Bangor Hydro spokesman Bill Cohen.
“That’s the last big pocket with that many customers on a single circuit,” said Cohen. “And it’s our goal to have them back on [the night of Jan. 19].”