October 31, 2012

Central Maine escapes serious damage from superstorm Sandy

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Central Maine was hit with heavy rain and strong wind on Monday and Tuesday, but escaped much of the damage from Sandy, the superstorm that left devastation south to the Carolinas.

click image to enlarge

Dave Vigue of the Waterville public works department clears a clogged drain on a flooded Front Street, in front of Joseph's Market, in Waterville after heavy rain on Tuesday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

Dave Vigue of the Waterville public works department clears a clogged drain on a flooded Front Street, in front of Joseph's Market, in Waterville after heavy rain on Tuesday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Additional Photos Below

In Maine, the storm knocked out power to more than 150,000 homes and businesses, disrupted travel, shut down schools and sank a 50-foot barge.

The first round of bad weather came overnight Monday into Tuesday, when about an inch of rain fell on central Maine, according to meteorologist Dan St. Jean at the National Weather Service office in Gray.

The second batch, ushered in with thunder, lightning and heavy downpours, began around noon on Tuesday and was expected to bring another inch-and-half of rain to the region by the time it winds down Wednesday morning.

Wind gusts from Hurricane Sandy, later downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, topped 35-44 mph in several areas, but wind damage generally was at a minimum, emergency management officials in central Maine said.

"It was pretty quiet overnight," said Mike Smith, Somerset County emergency management director Tuesday morning. "We had scattered power outages; the most at any one point was 370. We actually skated by pretty smoothly."

Waterville Public Works Director Mark Turner said the same thing Tuesday. Standing water was a problem in places, including on Front Street, but the big storm had little impact locally, Turner said.

"We did a lot of preparation -- leaf collection and cleaning storm drains." Turner said. "We were lucky -- very lucky."

All was quiet in Winslow, Clinton, Madison and Pittsfield, too, for the most part, town officials reported.

In Oakland, Town Manager Peter Nielsen said the town had made many preparations for the storm.

Nielsen said extra police, fire department and public works personnel were on hand overnight in addition to added preparation of vehicles and other equipment.

"Sometimes the citizens don't realize that an awful lot of readiness is done, even if it's not called for," Nielsen said.

In Farmington, Whittier Road survived the storm, but town officials decided to close the road early Tuesday afternoon. Officials are concerned that rapidly rising water in the Sandy River will erode it's riverbank, further threatening the heavily traveled road nearby.

Town Manager Richard Davis said early Tuesday afternoon that the road could be reopened once the river water recedes.

Elsewhere in the state, winds gusted up to 76 mph in Bath, 65 mph in Brooklin and 63 mph in Portland, knocking down trees, branches and utility poles.

Central Maine Power Co. officials reported that about 147,000 of its customers lost power at some time during the storm. About 48,000 customers were without power late Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, the company's website reported that 2,724 customers in Franklin County were without power, 117 in Kennebec County, 772 in Somerset County and 46 in Waldo County. In Cumberland and York counties, where most of the outages were, almost 35,000 customers were without power at the time.

Clean up and power restoration efforts could take several days, according to company spokesman John Carroll.

The company has also increased its field workforce to nearly 1,200 with additional line workers, tree crews, and support personnel, Carroll said.

The Coast Guard reopened the ports of Portland and Portsmouth, N.H., to normal operations on Tuesday morning after crews found no signs of damage or hazardous conditions, said Lt. Nick Barrow. Throughout the day, guardsmen planned to visit other harbors to assess damage to marinas and determine whether boats had broken free or hazardous materials had been released into the ocean.

Ocean conditions were dangerous on Monday, but no injuries were reported, Barrow said.

In Bar Harbor, a 50-foot work barge with a crane was discovered sunk in the harbor Tuesday morning, said harbor master Charlie Phippen. The barge, which was moored, apparently took on water overnight and flooded before sinking, he said.

Dozens of schools and the University of Southern Maine and the University of New England canceled classes because of power outages. A debate among U.S. Senate candidates at USM's Hannaford Hall was postponed from Tuesday to Friday.

Travel continued to be disrupted Tuesday, with multiple flights to and from Portland and Bangor airports canceled. Amtrak's Downeaster passenger train remained out of service Tuesday, mostly because of power outages between Portland and Boston and disruptions involving schedules of other trains using the rail.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Commuters encounter floodwater on the Waterville side of the Ticonic Bridge, after heavy rain fell in Waterville on Tuesday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Hunter Desveaux rides his bicycle through floodwater on Front Street, after heavy rain fell on Waterville Tuesday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans


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