Bill Grober of Stow fills jugs with kerosene as a line forms at the Foster-Russell Company in Bridgton on Jan. 9. The kerosene was pumping thanks to a portable generator which powered the electric fuel pumps. David A. Rodgers/Press Herald

When the storm struck, I was living and working as a teacher in Readfield. My 16-year-old daughter and I lived in a small house that was heated by wood. As the tops of trees and large branches snapped off, falling onto power lines and into the roads, and transformers atop the poles blew up, filling the air with bursts of light and sounds of explosions, it felt like being in a war zone. The house was darkened, and quiet except for the sounds of the fire crackling in the wood stove and the ice wreaking havoc outside.

When the rain stopped and the ice had done its damage, we ventured out of the house to a bizarre landscape. The skyline was filled with the jagged outline of trees snapped off. The road was blocked with the shattered trees and downed power lines. Initially it was impossible to use my car to go down the road to check on neighbors or to get to the store. Fortunately my electrical lines were not ripped away from the house. Then neighbors and the volunteer fire department started clearing the roads using chain saws and plow trucks. My daughter and I were able to collaborate with a neighboring family to cook meals together. We melted snow to get water to flush toilets. We always kept bottled water in the house to drink for when we lost power during storms.

It was wonderful to witness the community working together to ensure everyone was safe and their needs were taken care of. As it became clear that the area would be without power for a long while, efforts to help one another increased. A visiting teacher from the Ivory Coast and his family with two small children left the home of their host family in Winthrop to stay with us because we had heat. The host family had gone to a hotel in an area where power was restored. One area of town that had its power restored much sooner than others was the community school. It was established as an emergency shelter for the towns served by the school. Most people did not sleep at the shelter, but rather used it to gather with others, get a meal or have a shower.

I worked with volunteers from our staff and members of the Lions Club to make muffins and coffee in the morning for folks who stopped in to get a shower in the morning before heading into work in Augusta or areas where power had been restored and businesses were open. Parents with small children came for lunch and playgroups. Line workers also stopped in for lunch or coffee. The cafeteria was filled with a mixed group of people sharing stories and resources. This went on for over two weeks. Towards the end, the Red Cross came in and took over making meals. School was closed for classes for quite an extended time.

Since it is a rural district, some families were without power for much longer. My home was without power for 18 days. The disruption to school was enormous. The school board decided to “cancel” the traditional February vacation. However, staff and families who had already made plans and paid for tickets for excursions to warmer climates were allowed to keep their plans and go on vacation. Assignments and instruction were adapted to deal with the situation. Some schoolwide stress relief activities were incorporated to alleviate some of the negative feelings that were present by those who felt left behind. The ice storm created a great deal of physical damage in the landscape but also nurtured a community spirit that helped individuals and families get through a stressful time.

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