December 21, 2013

Maine power companies preparing for weekend ice storm

The worst of the mixed precipitation is expected to fall Saturday night and Sunday morning.

By Eric Russell
Staff Writer

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Portland Public Works employees load salt and sand trucks Thursday in preparation for expected precipitation this weekend.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Josh Newell of Standish, right, helps Robert Muldowney, a hardware sales associate at the Home Depot in Portland, load a generator onto a cart for his mother in anticipation of possible electrical outages this weekend.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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storm preparation tips


Charge cellphones, laptops and tablets.

Stock up on drinking water, nonperishable foods, baby supplies and pet food (Remember, canned goods require a can opener).

Keep a seven-day supply of necessary medications on hand.

 Clean up anti-freeze spills.

Stock up on ice melt.

Clear snow off roofs.

Keep a multifunctional tool on hand for unexpected repairs.

Bring pets indoors during harsh conditions.

Keep battery-operated or hand-crank flashlights and radios on hand.

Keep extra cash in case ATMs aren’t working.


Leave downed power lines alone.

Run generators outdoors and at least 15 feet from windows and doors. Don’t run a generator in an open garage.

Turn off a generator before refueling it.

Use a quick-response thermometer to check if food is safe to eat and throw away any that has spent more than two hours above 40 degrees.

If the power goes out, keep refrigerators and freezers closed as much as possible.


Leave a trickle of cold water running to prevent frozen pipes.

To thaw a pipe, apply an electric heating pad or hair dryer; do not use flames.

When using an emergency heat source, keep fuels away from flames or burners.

Ensure heaters or fires are properly ventilated.

Never use grills or camp stoves indoors.


• Try to stay off roads.

Make sure your car has plenty of gas.

 If you need to find a shelter, call Maine 211 at 211 or visit To check road conditions, call 511 or visit


Don’t use candles or other open flames.

Ensure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working.

Outdoor grills can substitute for indoor cooking.

Only licensed electricians should install permanent generators and transfer switches.

Properly ground portable generators.

Don’t store fuel indoors.

Sources: Central Maine Power; American Red Cross; Maine Emergency Management Agency

Bangor Hydro budgeted about $2.3 million for tree trimming in 2013, according to Falloon, and has increased its budget in that area by about $100,000 each year since 2007.

Ice building up on branches and limbs after an ice storm can cause them to bend or break, taking down power lines with them.

Rice said CMP also is more diligent about inspecting and maintaining its lines than it was 15 years ago, which also has reduced the number of outages.

During widespread power outages, utilities will prioritize the repairs.

“The first priority is to get power back to critical facilities like hospitals,” Rice said. “Then, it’s major substations that serve large numbers of customers. Then, we’ll move on to branch lines and individual lines.”

Memories of the devastating 1998 storm are still sharp for many, but some Maine residents say they are better prepared for a similar storm today.

That storm left 600,000 Mainers without power for days, more than 400,000 of them for at least a week or more. More than 10,000 households lost phone service, and the estimated cost of the storm’s damage was more than $320 million.

Suzanne Umland remembers being without power for days at her Yarmouth home.

“Our son was home from college and his sole job during the break was to keep the fire going,” Umland said with a laugh Thursday, as she rang a bell in Portland for the Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign.

She said that disaster was more difficult because of a lack of communication before smartphones, and the days it took to restore power.

“It was like camping indoors,” said Umland. The family lost power for five days, got it back for a few days, then lost it again for two more days, she said.

Paul Clark of Portland was a volunteer for the Red Cross during the storm, trying to coordinate supplies to far-flung towns in need. Neighbors pulled together to help each other out, borrowing chain saws and gathering in homes that had wood-fired stoves.

Clark remembers going into one neighborhood and heading straight for the house with smoke coming out the chimney.

“I go in there and there’s a crowd of people in there like a bus terminal,” he said. “They’re having fun, doing board games, talking.”

Staff Writer Noel K. Gallgaher contributed to this story.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:erussell@pressherald.comTwitter: @PPHEricRussell
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Additional Photos

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John Owen pulls down generators at Lowes in Portland on Friday in preparation for customers’ needs this weekend if an ice storm causes electrical outages. Gordon Chibroski, Staff Photographer


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