December 24, 2013

Lights go out in Waterville area as storm drags on

Power outages more than tripled from about 22,000 to 92,000 customers Monday afternoon before dropping to about 58,000 and CMP says many of those won’t be restored until Tuesday.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

Tens of thousands went without power as freezing moisture continued to accumulate on across central Maine on Monday, adding weight to stressed tree branches and downing power lines.

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FROZEN IN TIME: The Citizen Soldier statue stands frozen surrounded by ice-covered trees at Monument Park on Elm Street in Waterville on Sunday night.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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LINE CLEARING: Andrew Powers, an arborist with Asplundh Tree Experts, clears power lines from iced branches along Mayflower Heights Drive in Oakland on Monday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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And a Central Maine Power spokesman said many of those without power Monday night may not get it back until Tuesday.

As road surfaces began to freeze Monday afternoon, reports of accidents began to add up.

Forecasters originally thought the storm would end Sunday night, but it lasted through Monday, and could create added problems through Christmas Day and into the weekend.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Mike Kistner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.

Kistner said that while the immediate impact of the storm was not as bad as anticipated, it is too early to breathe a sigh of relief.

Added moisture on Monday will be followed by a deep freeze and strong wind, with gusts of up to 25 miles per hour.

Three-quarters of an inch of ice accumulated on surfaces in central Maine over the weekend, and that amount was expected to increase to nearly an inch by the end of the day on Monday, more than any other region in the state.

The combination is expected to cause increasing numbers of downed trees, branches and power lines, creating roadway hazards and more outages.

Between the mid-morning and the late afternoon, the number of outages reported by power companies soared from about 22,000 customers to 92,000 customers.

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office reported about two dozen accidents Monday, some of which they referred to other agencies. Accidents were reported in Anson, Fairfield, Palmyra, Pittsfield, Skowhegan and Waterville,

Maine State Police troopers had responded to a handful of vehicle accidents on Interstate 95, mostly near Pittsfield, Newport and Waterville, said Sgt. Matt Casavant.

In all cases, he said, drivers were going too fast and slid off the roads, resulting in minor, if any, vehicle damage.

He said he expected driving conditions to get much worse as temperatures dipped at night.

“Right now, nothing has really frozen,” he said. “If it goes down a few degrees, we’ll start seeing pockets of black ice.”

So far, he said, state rounds and backcountry roads had not seen many accidents.

Power outages

Early Monday evening, Central Maine Power reported more than 21,000 customers without power in 29 communities in Kennebec County, part of about 57,000 outages statewide. The statewide number, including Bangor Hydro customers, had climbed to more than 86,000 by late afternoon.

With outage reports climbing, Central Maine Power crews focused Monday night, not on restoring power, but on making sure downed lines are no longer electrified and are as safe as possible.

“As long as we’re in the impact phase, as we are, with calls still coming in, our focus is to make sure any downed lines are de-energized,” said John Carroll, a spokesman for CMP. “That’s what we’re going to do first. There is some restoration going on. But our real emphasis is on public safety.”

Carroll said if CMP customers don’t have power Monday night, they probably won’t have it back on until Tuesday.

He said the outages will be assessed overnight and the company should have a better idea Tuesday, of whether some customers could be without power for a second or third night.

Carroll said CMP’s priorities for restoration are transmission lines, which feed the rest of the system, first, then power lines that serve critical facilities such as hospitals, shelters, police and fire departments and schools, followed by trunk lines with the ones that are likely to return power to the most people getting fixed first, then, finally, to the ends of each circuit.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

LINES DOWN: The Waterville Fire Department closed down a section of Main Street in downtown Waterville Monday afternoon after a branch broke under the strain of heavy ice.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

LINE CLEARING: Andrew Powers, an arborist with Asplundh Tree Experts, clears power lines from iced branches along Mayflower Heights Drive in Oakland on Monday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

ICY ROADS: Southbound traffic creeps down Interstate 95 in Waterville on Monday. The recent ice storm has made travel on the roads and by foot treacherous the last two days.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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