Ryan Ciezynski waits Tuesday in a cold parking garage in Lewiston for the bus that will take him home to Connecticut. Ciezynski visited his fiance before catching the bus at the Oak Street Bus Station. “I love it here in the summer,” he said. “It’s cold in Connecticut, but not like this. I can’t wait for this bus to come.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Central Maine Power Co. workers were expected to work throughout the night Tuesday to restore power to thousands of customers after shrieking winds gusting up to 65 mph ripped down tree limbs and power lines.

Utility crews had knocked down the statewide number of customers without power from 40,000 at 4 p.m. to nearly 14,000 by 10:30 p.m. About 5,000 of those were in Oxford County, nearly 1,800 in Franklin County and about 80 in Androscoggin County. 

In some parts of Oxford County, police shut down roads as power crews made repairs and cleanup of downed tree limbs got underway.

Chaplain Eddie Greyfox Burgess of Lewiston was out most of the day Tuesday in the Wellness Mobile or on foot, checking on the homeless. 

By the middle of the day, Burgess said he had talked to roughly half a dozen people in crisis. He talked to several more who were riding out the storm in homeless encampment tents, in their cars or wherever else they could find shelter. 

Most of them, Burgess said, opted to ride out the storm rather than seeking help because better weather is in the forecast. 

“They’ll sleep with two sleeping bags and maybe put on a snow suit,” Burgess said. “In the morning, the weather will be better and they’ll come out of their cocoons and move on.” 

Small encampments exist year-round, Burgess said, mainly in wooded areas near parks, behind department stores or beneath bridges spanning the Androscoggin River. 

Some homeless people were offered vouchers for apartments, Burgess said, while others retreated to shelters or to the homes of friends. 

By midday Tuesday, shelters at Hope Haven and St. Martin de Porres in Lewiston were full. At the Ramada Hotel in Lewiston, the temporary winter wellness center was likewise out of beds.

“We are at capacity,” shelter Director Megan Park said, “with lots of calls coming in from folks seeking to get out of the cold.”

Burgess, who works with the Lewiston-Auburn Services for the Homeless, said while the wind and cold have had an impact on the homeless population this week, the pandemic, joblessness and financial woes were bigger factors. 

The fierce winds and subzero temperatures, Burgess said, were just a few more conditions to consider. His group has been organizing a number of fundraisers to provide help to the homeless, including a winter softball game that raised $7,000. 

“We never stop addressing the needs of the homeless,” he said. 

How many homeless folks are there in the region? It’s hard to say, Burgess said, in large part because the numbers haven’t been recorded as carefully this year due to the pandemic. He has heard estimates ranging from 70 to 133 people homeless this winter across the area. 

Danny Tinkham of Lewiston waits Tuesday for the bus at the Oak Street Bus Sation in Lewiston. “I have lived here all my life, so this is nothing,” Tinkham said about the frigid weather. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

IN LIKE A LION 

According to The National Weather Service, wind gusts during the storm reached highs of 65 mph in Bethel while it was closer to 50 mph in most areas. One man in Carrabassett Valley said he recorded a gust of wind at 117 mph with his personal weather station.

Wind chills were recorded at 20 degrees below zero in some places Tuesday morning. 

Trinity Jubilee Center in Lewiston was offering soup, sandwiches and shelter Tuesday for anyone stuck out in the cold. Burgess said they were also offering COVID tests for anyone hoping to get into an area shelter where tests are required.

Even if a person opted to stay indoors, the wind found ways to get them. In addition to trees and powerlines down, the cold gusts were causing problems for people in smaller ways. 

When Robin Graziano ventured out Tuesday morning, the wind was still howling and the world outside her Lewiston home didn’t look the same as it had the night before. 

“My shed door was in the neighbor’s driveway,” she said. “I picked it up only to have the wind catch it and I almost fell on my face. Then I had to stop with the door in front of me while the wind ripped in order to not go sailing across the snowbanking — and I mean literally sailing with the door as my sail. My neighbor’s trash can was in my yard and mine was in theirs. Theirs is better; I should have kept it.” 

Others reported shingles blown off their roofs, trailers blown over, outdoor furniture in disarray and a variety of items such as snowmobile covers and trash can lids lost to the powerful wind. 

Mike Haggett of Pine Tree Weather said that temperatures will begin to creep up Wednesday, although he expects it to remain breezy through the remainder of the week. Overall improvements to the weather don’t appear far off, Haggett said, as a ridge develops in the south to help move the arctic blast along. 

“Temperatures appear on the cool side through the first of next week,” Haggett wrote in his Tuesday report. “As the ridge sets up Monday, temperatures appear to head above normal by Tuesday.” 

And as always, in the it-could-be-worse way of thinking, there is always Mouth Washington to consider. As of the middle of the day Tuesday, it was 14 degrees below zero at the summit with a wind chill of -55 and with wind blowing at 71 mph.

A crow walks across a frozen basketball court Tuesday in Kennedy Park in downtown Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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