Hundreds of thousands of Maine businesses and residents remained without power Tuesday morning after an early morning wind storm swept through the state Monday, downing trees and power lines from Berwick to Mount Desert Island.
As of Tuesday just after 7 a.m., Central Maine Power Company reports that more than 344,000 customers remain without electricity. Emera Maine officials say more than 64,000 outages remain in its territory.
With utility crews still working to de-energize lines, it could be days before many see their power restored.
Portland resident Kevin Walsh woke at about 5 a.m. to the sound of a loud boom.
“And I thought it was just like a transformer exploding or a power line, and I came out and there’s a tree on top of my car,” he says.
His Toyota SUV looked like a smashed pumpkin.
“I can’t believe the wind was that strong to uproot a tree and put it on top of my car. So I’m trying to figure out how to get this tree off my car,” Walsh says.
The National Weather Service reported wind gusts up to 70 mph during the height of the storm. In its aftermath, on the city’s Munjoy Hill, cars and pedestrians had to wend their way around police tape every few blocks — to mark off hazards including downed trees and live wires.
Longtime resident Linda Bancroft lives just around the corner.
“It was pretty significant. It made my house shake. I don’t remember seeing it this bad, so — it’ll all be restored soon,” she says.
Just how soon was an open question. Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice says work crews were focusing first on de-energizing live wires.
“Our main focus today, Monday, is on making downed lines safe. We need to make sure that those lines don’t pose a danger to first responders or the general public or our employees. We will be out there 24/7 around the clock until we complete restoration, but at this point don’t have an estimate for when restoration will be completed,” she says.
Rice says more than 400,000 CMP customers lost power. That’s more than in the infamous ice storm of 1998.
“The good news is the storm has moved through quickly. We’ll have better conditions for restoration. I think it should go much quicker than what happened in 1998,” she says.
York County Chief Deputy Sheriff Thomas Baran says damage in his neck of the woods was widespread, with 80 percent of some towns losing power. Road crews were forced to improvise.
“A lot of highway departments are putting plows on their trucks, just kind of plowing debris off of roadways as long as it’s not connected with any power line.”
And while the worst damage appears to have been in southern Maine, other parts of the state were not spared. Emera reported about 90,000 customers lost power in the Greater Bangor area, as well as eastern Maine. A spokesperson for Emera says it could take two or three days to restore power to customers who live in rural parts of the state.
Back in Portland, assistant Fire Chief Keith Gautreau says his department fielded hundreds of calls, and it was taking awhile to clear them. In addition to the downed trees, he says his crews also had to respond to a fire in a residential neighborhood on Casco Bay.
“Right off of the water there three telephone poles went into three buildings. The wires went right in and caused one of them to catch fire,” he says.
Fortunately, he says there were no injuries or fatalities in Portland or around the state.
There was plenty of property damage, however. In Belfast several boats broke from their moorings, and at Falmouth’s Town Landing, the police boat’s dock got loose and floated away.
Utility and road crews will be using chainsaws and other equipment to clear roads throughout the night. To aid the effort, Governor Paul LePage has made an emergency proclamation, lifting limits on work hours for utility vehicle drivers.
Maine Public news staff contributed to this report.
This story was updated Oct. 31, 2017 at 7:15 a.m.