Nearly 110,000 Mainers were still without power as of 9 p.m. Monday, more than a day after Tropical Storm Irene blew across the state, a CMP spokesperson said. Some customers will remain without electricity for several more days, the company said, as repair work moves from urban centers to lower-population rural areas.
"Irene brought a challenging combination of high winds, heavy rain, and flooding that affected nearly every community in our 11,000-square-mile service area," CMP Director of Operations Tom DePeter said in a statement Monday night.
As many as 280,000 Mainers lost power at some point during Sunday's storm, he said. The most that were without power at any one time was 187,000 at 9 p.m. Sunday, the statement said.
"So we are making progress," CMP spokesperson Gail Rice said.
Rice said crews concentrated Monday on assessing the damage and fixing high-capacity lines in some of the more populated areas.
"We restore from the core out," Rice said. "We restore the transmission lines that serve substations first, then from the substations to the big three-phase lines that serve the centers of town and the larger number of customers and the highly populated areas. Then we move out to the service drops, between individual poles and somebody's house."
Rice said she expected some rural customers would be without electrical power for several days.
CMP brought in crews from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Canada to help with repairs. The additional 205 non-CMP line crews pushed the number of people working on the lines statewide 1,000.
In Auburn, a crew from the Illinois-based L.E. Myers Co., in town working on the installation of CMP's $1.4 billion transmission line as part of the Maine Power Reliability Program upgrade, was diverted from the transmission line work to help restore power to individual CMP customers.
"We hope to make a push today, with a lot of additional crews that are ready to roll," Rice said. "Really, we are in the first full day of restoration. Yesterday we spent most of the day making things safe around downed lines. We were able to make a few repairs Sunday, but with the winds still blowing it was really hard to make any real progress."
Rice said Cumberland, York and Kennebec counties were the hardest hit by electrical power outages. As of 9 p.m., 109,545 Maine customers were without power; 26,968 were in Cumberland County, 23,505 were in York County and 18,960 were in Kennebec County.
The company said 12,424 Androscoggin County customers were without service Monday evening, 12,335 were without service in Oxford County and 2,090 were out in Franklin.
In Lewiston at least, the damage could have been much worse, according to city arborist Steve Murch. Murch said gusts in Lewiston reached about 35 to 40 miles-per-hour at the city's Sabattus Street monitoring station.
"That's usually enough to bring down branches but not whole trees," he said. "A normal tree can withstand that easily. A lot of these things that broke were weak branches or areas where there's rot — not that it makes it any better for somebody when your power's out or the tree is on your car."
Stronger winds, such as those reported in other parts of the state, would have meant more problems.
"Imagine what it would have looked like if the winds had been 65 miles per hour," Murch said.
The storm was at its worst for about five hours Sunday, from 3 to about 8 p.m.
His crew stopped about 10:30 p.m. Sunday but were back in Monday morning.
"I think we'll spend a good part of the week on this," Murch said. "A good part of it depends on CMP right now. There are eight to 10 locations now where there are trees down that we can't do anything about because there are wires. We can't handle that until CMP comes and clears the wire."
Maine power outages by county
As of 9 p.m. Monday
CMP Total: 109,545
Source: Central Maine Power Co.