December 26, 2013

On blocked Belgrade road, neighbors help neighbors survive the black-out

Karen Gibbs gets her power back Thursday after losing it Monday afternoon during the ice storm.

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Karen Gibbs left her Belgrade home Thursday morning after the temperature inside dipped below 32 degrees.

click image to enlarge

ICY RECOVERY: Carl Taylor, an arborist with Asplundh Tree Expert Co., frees a tree from the power lines on Maplehurst Road in Belgrade on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. Crews have been working around the clock this week to restore power to customers in central Maine.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

ICY RECOVERY: Karen Gibbs walks through a labyrinth of icy broken trees and downed power lines to her home on Maplehurst Road in Belgrade on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. Residents of Maplehurst Road have been without power since Monday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Her driveway and road were blocked by downed trees from the ice storm, her home had no power and she dared not start a fire in her wood stove until her son arrived from Bangor to clean her chimney.

Gibbs said she walked to a neighbor’s house nearby by to get warm and take a shower.

“I’ve been cut off since Monday afternoon — it’s kind of a blur, to be honest,” said Gibbs, 63, who prepared herself with layers of warm clothing and hand warmers. “I’m a pretty hardy old lady and do understand survival kinds of things.”

Gibbs, a teacher at Cony High School in Augusta, said she spent Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day by herself, unable to move her car, but she was fine.

She said her father, a World War II veteran who died earlier this month, taught her to have a positive attitude.

“My father was in France during World War II in winter conditions, in foreign countries with no ability to think that Central Maine Power’s going to come and turn the power on,” she said.

Gibbs and others on Maplehurst Road in Belgrade had been without power since large trees toppled power wires and blocked the small neighborhood off West Road Monday afternoon.

Gibbs said her neighbors — Michael and Barbara Barrett — not only gave her a place to get warm and take a shower, they also checked on others in the area. They brought hot soup to neighbors and to line workers and cleanup crews, she said.

“With all this going on, she came down here again this afternoon with thermoses of soup and a big pack, going door to door making sure everything was OK — they’re just that kind of people,” she said. “They also organized a neighborhood group to take away branches that were left behind.”

The Barretts did not answer the telephone in their home Thursday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

Gibbs said the power at her home came back on at 3:48 p.m. Thursday. She said one member of the power crew she spoke with was from Oregon, another was from California.

“My phone has been ringing nonstop — that’s what I mean about the goodness of humanity — the number of people calling here to ask, ‘What can I do?’ ‘How can I help you?’ ‘How can I get you out of here?’ has been amazing,” she said.

Gibbs’ Maplehurst Road neighbors, Christopher and Christine Divine and their son, 20, and daughter, 11, braved Christmas with a generator, but they had to walk through the woods to get to their car. The couple was not home when the tree that blocked the road fell and they managed to drive close to their home, but they didn’t like the safety concerns the blocked road presented.

“It was alarming just because if we ever had an emergency — if the house was on fire or something — how would somebody get down here to us?” Christopher Divine said. “That was always the main concern, it was never the power. We had to walk through the woods and in the pitch black, that’s not fun.”

Divine said the street had been cleared of of trees and branches by Thursday afternoon and he hoped the worst was behind them. He said all the families on his street were able to come and go by 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

“Christmas was fine — everything was fine — it was just more of the safety aspect of it,” he said. “The guys that are out there doing the lines, we commend them, they’re doing a wonderful job.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367dharlow@centralmaine.comTwitter: @Doug_Harlow

 

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