July 13, 2020

Waldo County> Warmth, electricity prized commodities

MONROE – With the entire region wrapped in ice, the bird feeder at Vesta Rand’s was busy.

As the storm descended, flocks of chickadees and other wintering birds made a beeline to the Stream Road and Rand’s welcoming clump of suet and seeds. It was the first Friday morning of the ice storm on the Stream Road, and power lines were down all over town. No one expected that many in this Waldo County community of 600 would still be without electricity for nearly another two weeks.

While it may have been nasty outside, indoors Rand, the 94-year-old former Monroe town clerk, was enjoying a baked potato in the comfort of her kitchen. Like many others in Waldo County that day and for days to come, Rand was heating her house with her propane gas cooking oven and stove burners.

The fire department had already been by to check on Rand, but as someone who has been flooded out by the Marsh Stream for more springs than she can remember, the feisty woman was hunkered down for the duration. Her daughter, Clair Grindel, said her mother was comfortable and not about to go anywhere.

Over at the Doak farm, the situation was not nearly as cozy. David and Bernys Doak had plenty of wood heat to stay warm, but the farm was in trouble. The Doaks lost their generator during the early hours of the storm and had been dumping milk ever since. Bernys estimated that the farm had lost 3,600 pounds of fresh milk. The backup generator was simply not powerful enough to run the entire farm.

“We’ve got enough power to run our milker but we’re dumping the milk because we don’t have enough power to keep it chilled,” she said. “Still, considering how some others have it, we’re doing pretty good. It could be a lot worse. We could be without anything.”

Local Emergency Management Director Gene Gibbs began scrambling to set up a shelter at the Monroe Fire Station. Gibbs and his team of volunteers spent most of their time helping to move people without heat to homes of friends and relatives. “Luckily, there have been no real emergencies,” Gibbs said Friday. “There are a lot of people stranded between downed trees and power lines but they are warm and dry.”

In Belfast, emergency shelters were set up at the EMA office and sheriff’s department as well as at the MBNA facility under construction. Both buildings were running on generator power. County EMA Director Rick Farris said 18 people spent the night Thursday, Jan. 8, at the shelter and that he expected more the next day.

“We’ve got plenty of food and plenty of fuel,” Farris said. “We have many, many shelters across the county and everybody is doing what they can to help. Off-duty firemen and police are out there with chain saws clearing roads.

A light in the darkness, the Belfast Cooperative was doing a land-office business as it was one of the few buildings in the city to have power.

“I can’t explain it and I’m not even going to ask,” General Manager Gary Skigen said amid the bedlam. “We’ve got power so we’re moving a lot of stock.”

Over in Searsport, the 25 residents of the Bay View Manor spent Thursday night, Jan. 8, without power and were being taken to that town’s First Congregational Church for warmth and shelter, according to Fire Department spokesman Peter King.

“All we’re doing is moving people to shelters,” King said.

At the Department of Defense aircraft fuel storage area off Mack Point, the doors were thrown open to the public for showers, a warm place to sleep and to take a meal. The three-bay facility was running on an emergency generator. When asked how the fuel was holding up, one employee referred to the surrounding tank farm and said: “There’s 125,000 gallons in tank No. 4. I guess we’ll be OK.”

Cars were lined up down Route 139 waiting to use the gas pumps at the Monroe General Store. Owner Keith Nealley said the store had been a magnet all day once word got out that he received a fuel delivery Friday morning. The store was running on generator power and Nealley estimated he had enough fuel for another 20 hours. Residents needing water found a welcoming spigot at the store.

“I’m all out of milk and I’m running out of bread, but we’re doing all right,” Nealley said. “We’re not renting many videos, though.”

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