April 07, 2020

More storm outages reported Maine Assesses wind damage as crews struggle to restore power

The wind and rain that battered Maine over the weekend subsided Monday, but utility crews continued to work overtime restoring power to thousands.

What’s worse, new outages were being reported Monday afternoon, sending numbers in the wrong direction, said Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. spokeswoman Jen Brooker.

After peaking at nearly 30,000 customers without power on Saturday evening, that number had been reduced to about 7,000 by Monday morning.

Brooker said late Monday that the total was back up to 11,000.

“It has been a day of new outages and a bit of an uphill battle,” she said at about 5 p.m. “It’s frustrating for the customers, obviously, but our workers like to make progress and move on, and it’s just not happening.”

Bangor Hydro, which supplies electricity to most of eastern and northern Maine, got a boost from utility workers in Canada, who traveled south Monday to lend a hand.

“We’re going to keep cycling our crews through the overnight hours,” Brooker said. “We’ll just be doing it longer than we hoped.”

In eastern Maine, the largest block without power was Hancock County, where downed power lines closed the Trenton bridge, the only connection between the mainland and Mount Desert Island.

On Sunday morning, several utility poles snapped, cutting power to all of MDI and some 5,000 people.

As crews worked Sunday to repair the lines on the bridge, Route 3 was closed for about four hours that afternoon, causing lengthy traffic delays.

Gov. John Baldacci visited the crew at the Trenton bridge Sunday evening and praised utility workers there for their efforts to restore power and allow traffic to flow across the bridge.

The weekend storm brought winds up to 70 mph in some areas along with several inches of rain. Aside from numerous downed utility poles, the high winds uprooted trees and tore roofs off buildings.

During the storm’s peak Saturday evening, more than 65,000 Mainers had lost electricity, prompting Baldacci to declare a state of emergency.

In southern Maine, more than 55 utility poles were broken in the storm’s wake, according to Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice.

After peaking at 38,000 outages, CMP reported Monday afternoon that about 6,800 remained. The Brunswick area was the hardest hit in the southern part of the state. Residents in a busy Portland neighborhood also survived a scare when a 165-foot crane toppled over and crashed into three apartment buildings.

There were no official estimates Monday on how much damage the storm caused, according to Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

“We’ve put out requests to counties to let us know about what kind of damage is present,” Miller said Monday from Somesville on MDI. “The big thing here is insurance, and we hope the homes and businesses that suffered were well-insured.”

Many boats along Maine’s coast were damaged, and Miller said Monday afternoon that reports were coming in of losses among those in the lobster industry.

The problems at the Trenton bridge prompted Bangor Hydro to re-evaluate its service to Mount Desert Island.

In the near future Bangor Hydro will install new poles where the five poles broke Sunday on the western side of the bridge, according to Rob Bennett, the company’s president and chief operating officer.

Bangor Hydro’s long-term approach to improving service between Ellsworth and Bar Harbor will involve putting the lines where they won’t be susceptible to motor vehicle accidents or high winds, he said Sunday.

Though Bangor Hydro cut power to the island while the poles were leaning low over the bridge, some businesses in Bar Harbor had power Sunday.

Generators that Bangor Hydro owns on Eagle Lake Road near its intersection with Norway Drive were turned on Sunday to help provide some electricity to the island.

The generators, which according to state law cannot be operated by Bangor Hydro, were installed decades ago to help boost the power supply in Bar Harbor during peak usage times, such as during high tourist season in the summer.

They are not capable of producing the amount of power that normally comes over the bridge, he said.

Inland, conditions were generally quieter Monday. In Millinocket trees were downed on Prospect, York, Wausau, Sycamore and Balsam streets, and a traffic light came loose at Central and Rhode Island avenues.

BDN reporter Bill Trotter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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