December 27, 2013

Central Maine residents should have power back by end of night Friday

Central Maine Power Co. expects to bring nearly every inhabited building back on line before moving on to next phase of recovery.

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Central Maine Power Co. expects to restore power to nearly all customers by late Friday.

click image to enlarge

THANKS: An Asplundh Tree Expert Co. arborist trims frozen limbs Friday near a power line in Hallowell. Several hundred out-of-state electrical and tree workers have been assisting Central Maine Power in Kennebec County and across the state.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

THANKS: Public Service of New Hampshire line supervisor Chris Piccolo eats a cookie presented to his utility crew by a customer Friday while restoring power in Vassalboro. Several hundred out-of-state power and tree workers arrived in Kennebec County to restore power this week, often working 17 hour days in freezing temperatures. Crews in Vassalboro received tins of fudge, chocolate and boxes of peanut butter cookies from a resident grateful to be re-attached to the grid.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Related headlines

Ice storm recap

Sunday: A quarter-inch of ice or less, described by Central Maine Power Co. as a “mild icing event” coated area roads and surfaces. Power outages between 2,000 and 4,000.

Monday: Second round of rain and ice began early and continued all day. By 10 p.m., 80,000 CMP customers were without power.

Tuesday: Heavy icing had formed along a band 40 to 50 miles from Auburn to Belfast. The National Weather Service reported 1.2 inches of ice in Augusta. By 10 a.m., 87,000 people were without power.

Wednesday (Christmas Day): By noon, outages were reduced to 50,000.

Thursday: By noon, outages were down to 21,000. An additional 3 inches of snow slowed power restoration efforts.

Friday: By noon, outages were down to 7,500. All customers expected to be restored later that night.

Storm total: Over the course of the storm, 123,000 CMP customers lost power at least once.

Source: Central Maine Power

“It’s been a very good day,” said spokesman John Carroll. “Our (outage) numbers are bumping up and down, but generally trending down.”

Carroll said crews should be able to finish the first phase of storm recovery tonight by restoring power to all inhabited buildings. Only a few scattered outages should remain, at seasonally used buildings and down inaccessible camp roads.

At 8:30 p.m., Friday, the CMP website reported 902 customers without power, including 350 in Kennebec County, 294 in Waldo County and 74 in Lincoln County. There had been more than 8,000 CMP customers without power at one point Friday morning.

The number of CMP customers without power peaked at about 87,000 on Tuesday morning, following the two-day ice storm. The company estimated that 123,000 customers lost power at least once after 1 a.m. Monday.

The Augusta area fared better than Down East, where Bangor Hydro expects that full restoration of service won’t be accomplished until this weekend in Washington and Penobscot counties and Wednesday in Hancock County.

Once everyone has power, CMP will move on to the next stages of storm recovery, which Carroll said include bringing seasonal customers back on line, replacing temporary repairs with permanent ones and scanning lines from the air and the ground to find leaning trees or fallen branches that did not cause outages.

Utility and tree service companies from several Northeastern states and Canada sent crews to Maine to aid in the effort, which has been complicated by cold temperatures that have kept the ice from melting and additional snowfall on Thursday.

One out-of-state utility that responded was Public Service of New Hampshire, which sent about 50 people, including 18 line crews.

Don Nourse, manager of operations support, said employees’ Christmas plans were disrupted, but they’ve been greeted warmly by Mainers for whom utility trucks were a welcome sight.

“We’re here to support the customers of CMP and the folks of Maine,” Nourse said. “They’ve been very generous to us, keeping the guys going, bringing them out cookies and coffee and what have you.”

The aftermath of the ice storm affected local businesses as well as residents.

A power outage at the Hannaford supermarket on Whitten Road in Augusta early in the week forced the store to throw out a “significant” portion of its refrigerated and frozen products, a spokesman for the New England supermarket chain said Friday morning.

The store lost power from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday. It was briefly restored, and then out again until 1:30 on Tuesday, spokesman Eric Blom said.

An employee warned shoppers as they entered that the store wasn’t selling any perishable goods.

Besides food safety concerns, Hannaford won’t sell products if the quality has been affected by thawing and refreezing, Blom said.

“The bottom line is always the safety of the food, so if there’s any question that there might be a temperature that’s gone lower than it should be or has otherwise impacted (the products), then we need to discard the food,” he said.

Blom wouldn’t give a dollar figure for the value of food lost, only saying it was a significant amount of the frozen and refrigerated items.

Some ice may begin to melt on Saturday, when temperatures in central Maine are forecast to rise into the mid-30s. For Sunday, however, the National Weather Service in Gray has placed the area under a winter storm watch, forecasting 6-10 inches of snow starting Sunday evening.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645 smcmillan@centralmaine.com Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan
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