March 29, 2020

Ice sequel plays in Maine > Rains bring flooding, outages, roof cave-ins

The forces of nature again hit Maine with a vengeance this weekend.

While the majority of power outages were in the southern part of the state, freezing rain and snow downed power lines, overwhelmed roofs, and clogged storm drains, causing widespread street flooding in central and eastern Maine.

One resident was so frustrated by the storm he tried shooting the ice off his roof.

Grover Hews, 60, of Fairfield fired six shots from a .357-caliber Magnum handgun at a ledge of ice overhanging his home’s second-floor roof. “He was actually hitting the overhang with the bullets,” said Fairfield patrolman Bryant Laverdiere. “There obviously was a ricochet problem and there were several children playing in the area.”

Laverdiere said he confiscated Hews’ weapon and charged him with reckless conduct with a firearm and discharging a firearm within the city limits.

While Hews’ solution was questionable, his frustration was understandable as snow and ice weighed heavily on many area roofs.

Richard Dummond, a cook at Manna Inc., a soup kitchen on Center Street in Bangor, had just placed a bag of donated food on a counter when he heard a snap and the building’s roof caved in behind him.

“The tiles came down like dominoes,” Dummond said Saturday as he stood in the pouring rain outside the heavily damaged building. Manna was closed at the time. Dummond escaped without injury.

A portable trailer will be brought in Monday, and groceries will be distributed to those in need from the Center Street location. A hot meal will be served there from 5 to 6 p.m. today. Beginning Tuesday, meal service will be moved to the Columbia Street Baptist Church, where it will be offered from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The Bangor Fire Department on Saturday found the Central Fire Station roof leaking.

“You can leave it alone and hope it won’t collapse or you can get up there and try to get it off and most likely do some damage to the roof,” said Assistant Fire Chief Darrell Webb.

The metal roof of a barn in Harmony collapsed, trapping more than two dozen cattle.

“The whole roof buckled right flat to the floor,” said Bob Stuart, a firefighter with the Cambridge Fire Department.

In Greenbush, Fire Chief Ed Haverlock said about a dozen firefighters went to the Fremont Madden residence and business after a garage roof collapsed at 9:45 a.m. Saturday.

“Our immediate concern was fire,” said Haverlock, noting that a space heater and wood stove were operating in the garage. A front-end loader, a new pickup truck and several other pieces of equipment received damage.

Local hospitals reported treating many people who were injured trying to shovel the heavy snow and ice off their roofs.

“A lot of people aren’t using their prudence,” said Sister Mary Norberta, head of St. Joseph Hospital.

The hospital also treated scores of people with broken bones they suffered falling on the icy and rain-slicked sidewalks and roads.

The driving wasn’t much better.

With catch basins clogged with ice, streets, highway ramps and parking lots in the Bangor area became large ponds. Numerous minor accidents were reported.

The conditions forced the Maine Department of Transportation to shut down Route 202 in Hampden. Parts of Interstate 395 in Bangor also were closed.

On Mount Desert Island, Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor were cut off by high waters when Route 3 closed near Little Long Pond on Sunday due to a 3-foot-deep lagoon on the highway. Seal Harbor residents also reported losing power Sunday.

Plumbing companies spent Saturday fielding dozens of calls from residents. Plumbers advised residents to shut off their furnaces and hot-water heaters before they were flooded.

“Everyone’s furnace is underwater,” said Kristin Stager of Everett G. Jordan Inc. in Bar Harbor where the phone started ringing at 7 a.m.,”and there’s no place to pump [the water] to.” Ray Plumbing and Heating Co. in Ellsworth called in extra staff to respond to more than 30 calls.

Bill Rioux, owner of the Mill Stream Restaurant in Blue Hill, came to work to find the stream running right into, and under, his restaurant. Three feet of water was sitting in a crawl space under the kitchen, drenching the water heater and motor of his $8,000 bread mixer. He said the staff might be kneading their French bread and pizza dough by hand that evening.

Despite all the water, residents on Bangor’s east side found themselves without it Sunday afternoon when a water main broke in a field near Bangor Mental Health Institute. The 20-inch pipe running from Mount Hope Avenue to State Street carries 10,000 gallons of water per minute.

Once the break was isolated, the main was shut off and water rerouted to a nearby pipe. Bangor Water District spokeswoman Kathy Moriarty said some customers could experience discolored water from the incident, but it is safe to drink.

More than 75,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers were without power late Saturday afternoon. The most severe outages were in the Portland, Brunswick and Augusta areas and in York County. The company reported about 12,000 customers remained without power early Sunday evening.

“This repair effort will be measured in hours or perhaps a day, not the 10 days or longer it took from the earlier storm,” said CMP spokesman Mark Ishkanian.

Most of the out-of-state crews that were working with CMP to restore power knocked out by the earlier ice storm in central and southern Maine were scheduled to return home Friday. But when company officials heard the weather report, they asked the crews to stay and many did, company president David Flanagan said.

On Saturday, 200 out-of-state crews joined 100 CMP crews working to restore power.

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reported only scattered outages over the weekend, according to company spokeswoman Paula Butera. On Sunday, the company had received more than 1,000 calls in the Bangor area reporting outages. A company official estimated 5,000 people were without power at the height of the storm. The hardest-hit areas were Hampden, Orono, Milford, Hudson, Greenbush, Lincoln and Enfield. Outages were also reported in Bangor and Brewer. In Old Town, a tree fell across lines on South Main Street, knocking out power to much of the town Saturday.

Only two people in the company’s Machias division, where 8 miles of transmission line was felled earlier this month, reported being without power.

This latest bout of winter weather arrived just as the “Storm of the Century’ film crew wrapped up a five-day shoot in Southwest Harbor. As the snow turned to rain late Friday night, the potato flakes used to simulate snow took on a soggy consistency and the higher temperatures fogged up camera lenses. The shoot finished as planned, and Main Street opened to traffic Saturday.

Gov. Angus King, touring parts of York and Cumberland counties Sunday, couldn’t believe that the first ice storm could have a sequel.

“Unfortunately, it looks very much the same [as the previous storm] although it appears it was not as severe in taking down utility poles,” King said. “It’s almost as if Mother Nature said, `Oh, sorry I forgot York County.’ Whack.”

While there was no official declaration, King said it looked as if the Federal Emergency Management Agency would treat this ice storm as a continuation of the original crisis and provide assistance to those affected.

The American Red Cross opened shelters for people without heat or power in Bath, Cape Elizabeth, Saco, South Berwick, South Portland, Topsham and Yarmouth.

And the governor set up a “generator dating service” to supply generators to people who could be in the dark for a few more days.

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