August 30, 2011

LePage, other officials survey damage from storm

By Scott Monroe smonroe@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Sugarloaf Mountain Resort became the most high-profile victim of Tropical Storm Irene in Maine when heavy flooding washed out two state-owned bridges on Route 27, cutting off the resort's primary access points to the north and south.

click image to enlarge

INJURED: Nicole Truscott, 20, of Waterville, injured her ankle Sunday when the high winds caused by Tropical Storm Irene caused a tree limb to crash down on her as she walked along the sidewalk.

Staff photo by Scott Monroe

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But by Monday afternoon, even as state officials said the bridge destruction had "effectively isolated" the resort, Sugarloaf officials said a detour had been established on the southern end so people could still get there. The private gravel road winds through the Twin Brook condominium community and eventually connects to the resort's main access road.

Gov. Paul LePage personally inspected the damaged bridges near Sugarloaf Monday morning, as well as flooded locations in Phillips and Rumford.

Sunday afternoon and evening, heavy wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph knocked down numerous trees, many of which tore down power lines and blocked roads.

In the greater Waterville area, residents and business owners awoke Monday morning to partly sunny skies -- and many faced the prospect of cleaning up piles of leaves and tree branches. Still others in more rural areas of central Maine were without power after nearly 24 hours.

About 135,000 customers of Central Maine Power remained without electricity by Monday at 5 p.m., including 24,086 in Kennebec County, 4,640 in Somerset County, 4,095 in Waldo County, and 2,605 in Franklin County.

There was just one report of someone being injured in central Maine during the storm: Nicole Truscott, 20, of 9 Pleasant St., Waterville. Truscott and her boyfriend were walking on the sidewalk along Pleasant Street about 4 p.m. Sunday, near their home, when they heard a crackling sound. They started running, but the large tree limb came crashing down on Truscott's leg, ankle and shoulder.

She later went to Inland Hospital and had her swollen and possibly-fractured ankle wrapped.

"It was pretty scary," Truscott said Monday as she leaned on crutches. "Just before that, we walked through a tree that had fallen down and I said, 'I hope one don't fall on us.' Well, it was like three minutes (when she was hit). I jinxed myself."

During one stretch of strong winds Sunday afternoon, Waterville firefighters responded to about 50 calls of downed trees, while Winslow took another 20 calls. Both departments were so swamped with call after call, they were still entering the backlog into their system records Monday. Public works crews joined area firefighters in cutting and moving downed trees.

"That's exactly what we were expecting," said David LaFountain, fire chief for Waterville and Winslow. "But it's a good thing it didn't go on any longer."

LaFountain said officials were considering opening a public shelter up at Waterville Junior High School, but instead helped make arrangements for a handful of people to stay elsewhere, such as in local hotels.

"In one case, a tree came down in the driveway and took out the entrance head and brought a wire down close to the ground and there was still power in the house," LaFountain said. "They looked at their situation and said, 'We're going to a hotel.'"

Just before 6 p.m. on U.S. Route 201 in Winslow, a tree came crashing down on a car with people inside it. By the time firefighters arrived, the people were out of the car and said they were unharmed, according to Winslow fire records.

The response to those calls also faced a brief interruption during the afternoon when the power went out for the Waterville Communications Center and its emergency backup generator didn't start, according to Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey. Responders weren't severely affected, because they could still use portable radios and 911 calls are received by other dispatch centers, Massey said.

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