Power outages from ‘super storm’ historic

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A lineman works to restore power on East Avenue in Lewiston on Monday. Linemen are working 17 hours on, seven hours off, CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said. Monday’s storm inflicted more power outages than the ice storm of 1998. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Monday’s pre-Halloween storm was historic in the number of power outages it inflicted.

“Never in the history of our company — not even during the ice storm of 1998 — have we seen so many outages from a single storm,” Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice said.

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Monday morning was “peak outage,” when 400,000-plus households were without power. That’s more than 60 percent of CMP’s customers.

Why did this storm leave more customers without power than the 1998 ice storm?

The trees. And the wind.

“We had winds that approached hurricane force for a number of hours,” Rice said. “The ground was saturated from the storm of the previous week. And the trees still had their leaves on them for the most part. That increases the windages, the wind catches them.”

Many trees were completely uprooted, Rice said.

CMP’s Facebook page shows a high number of downed trees all over Maine. “The trees were absolutely an amazingly huge part of it,” Rice said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Hawley said more than the ice storm, this storm covered all of Maine.

“This one was statewide, from the coast to the mountains,” Hawley said. “Rangeley hasn’t had power for over 30 hours. It extends all the way up there, Down East, Aroostook County. It’s much more widespread and affected more people.”

The storm wasn’t a hurricane, but it had hurricane-like winds.

To be an official hurricane, the wind has to reach 74 mph. The peak wind was measured at the Portland Jetport at 69 mph.

“It was pretty close,” Hawley said. Other wind speeds measured Monday were Augusta, 70; South Bristol, 71; Mount Washington, 131, Sanford, 56; Lewiston-Auburn, 47.

Winds on an island off Maine were measured at 92 mph.

Winds were strongest near the coast, which suffered more downed trees and outages.

‘SUPER STORM’

While Monday’s storm was not a hurricane, it was an unusual event of two storms hitting Maine, one from the South and one from the Great Lakes. “They combined to create a super storm,” Hawley said.

The worst part of the storm was between 5 and 8 a.m.

Compared to the ice storm, this storm caused more outages because it took out complete trees or larger parts of trees, Hawley said.

During the ice storm, ice-covered branches fell on ice-covered power lines.

On Monday, “strong winds were bringing down more trees, whole trees with leaves and all,” Hawley said. “Trees fell on lines. Trees fell on houses, cars, telephone poles.”

The historic number of outages is why it will take time to fix the damage, Rice said, explaining why CMP has projected most households will have power by Saturday. Many will get power before then, she said. “Saturday will be the tail end of it.”

On Monday, CMP’s priority was ensuring that all hospitals had power and downed wires were de-energized and made safe.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the focus was and will be assessing damage, looking at lines and poles that need to be replaced, restoring power to larger areas with a bigger concentration of households.

“We go for the biggest bang for the buck,” Rice said.

Some people without power Tuesday wondered where the utility trucks were.

Rice said that’s a question she’s heard “even from my brother! We have hundreds of trucks out there.” Because somebody doesn’t see a truck doesn’t mean crews are not working, she said.

She said 1,750 staffers, including line workers, tree crews and field personnel, were working to restore power. Many have been called in from other states.

“We have 25,000 miles of lines, 11,000 miles of service,” Rice said. Power trucks are out working “in every single town.”

Crews restoring power are working 17 hours on, seven hours off, Rice said. Crews get as much work as they can do during the daylight hours when the work is more efficient and safer.

Another common question customers have is why their homes are without power when homes down the street have power.

Rice said each CMP pole has “cross arms.” Wires go in both directions. “Some feed off one side, some feed off the other.”

There can be damage to the wires going in one direction from the cross arm, but not the other, she said.

An uprooted tree fell on a house Monday on Dawn Avenue and Mary Street in Lewiston. Powerful winds blew trees onto houses, cars and power lines, resulting in the most outages in Central Maine Power’s history. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

 

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