Sara Burns: We expect to complete restoration to the vast majority of customers by Saturday night.
— Central Maine Power (@cmpco) October 31, 2017
Work to restore electricity to more than 400,000 Maine homes and businesses continues a day after a powerful storm knocked out power to a record number of people across the state.
The state’s two largest power companies say electricity should be restored to most customers by Saturday. Nearly two-thirds of Maine was left without power after the ferocious wind storm caused widespread damage Monday morning. Roughly 484,000 customers were without power at the height of the outages, far exceeding the number of outages during the historic Ice Storm of 1998.
“We’re a resilient state and we’re used to severe storms,” said Peter Rogers, acting director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency. “It doesn’t make them any less devastating.”
Roughly 404,000 Central Maine Power customers were without power Monday at the peak of outages. By Tuesday, the number of customers without power dropped to about 335,000.
More than 1,000 CMP employees worked on restoration efforts Monday and the utility company expects hundreds of line and tree workers to arrive Tuesday from as far away as Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Crews from Canada arrived before the storm and on Monday.
“Today we’re going to add more than 600 line crews and 300 tree crews. We expect to make major progress today,” CMP president Sara Burns said during a MEMA briefing Tuesday morning. “Every part of our service area has been impacted.”
Areas that are hard to access or where there is extensive damage will take the longest to get back online, Burns said. The company expects to be able to start providing estimated restoration times for residential and commercial customers by late Tuesday.
More than 334,000 CMP customers were without power at noon Tuesday, including 89,000 customers in Cumberland County and 58,000 in York County, according to the company’s website.
Emera Maine reports nearly 63,000 customers in northern and downeast Maine remained without power Tuesday morning. The company had reported more than 90,000 outages Monday.
“Our crews are working as quickly and safely as possible and we ask people to refrain from approaching them with questions that can slow their work and create safety concerns,” said Gail Rice, spokesperson for CMP.
Officials from state agencies and the power companies say the response to Monday’s storm has gone well when compared to the Ice Storm of 1998, which also left hundreds of thousands of Mainers without power. Burns, from CMP, said it is likely most homes and businesses will have power by Saturday, less than a week after the storm.
“If I was sitting here during the Ice Storm, I would have told you 22 days,” she said.
During the Ice Storm, CMP had to fix 2,600 broken poles. As of Tuesday morning, 400 broken poles had been reported, but Burns expected that number to double as crews continue to work.
Rail service between Brunswick and Boston was interrupted Monday because of downed lines and trees and again Tuesday because of power outages along the rail line. Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said the first three round trips of the Amtrak Downeaster between Portland and Boston scheduled for Tuesday have been canceled because of power outages.
When power is out at grade crossings, the train must stop so a conductor can get out and flag the train through the crossing. Quinn said it is possible train service could resume as early as 2:45 p.m. Tuesday. Updates will be posted on the Amtrak Downeaster website and on social media.
“We’re on standby and ready to go as soon as enough crossings have power,” she said. “We’re in limbo like everyone else.”
Julie Rabinowitz, press secretary for Gov. Paul LePage, said the governor will tour storm damaged areas on Wednesday. She said he will likely visit the midcoast area.
On Tuesday, Mainers without power ventured out in search of coffee, fuel for generators and power sources to charge cell phones.
In Buxton, town hall is open for people to charge electronic devices and water spigots are available at the Groveville and Chicopee fire stations. The Lebanon Fire and EMS building is open to charge cell phones and refill water containers. Fire officials in that southern York County town encouraged residents to be extra cautious while using generators and to check on elderly neighbors and anyone using oxygen.
Halloween festivities are on hold in some towns where residents are still without power. In Yarmouth, town officials suggest parents wait until Friday to go trick-or-treating. Lebanon and North Berwick officials encouraged parents to keep their children home Tuesday night because of safety concerns. Brunswick postponed its annual Halloween parade and trick-or-treating until 4:30 p.m. Friday because of storm cleanup.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding a Brunswick currently has numerous roads that have downed trees and power lines that need to be cleared and reconnected so that electricity can be restored to the community,” Brunswick police said in a Facebook post.