An elderly woman who needed help in rural Madison and a big old tree that fell in downtown Skowhegan showed Sunday just how destructive, inconvenient and potentially dangerous high wind and frigid temperatures can be.
Central Maine Power Co. officials estimate that 48,500 customers lost power at some point during the storm and nearly 50 poles were broken when high winds toppled trees and blew limbs into power lines.
By late Monday an estimated 1,800 customers remained without power, mostly in Franklin, Somerset, Oxford and Androscoggin counties. The company expected most of the remaining customers to have service back by late evening.
Weather forecasts call for another storm to come through the area midweek — just in time for Thanksgiving travel, one of the busiest travel times of the year.
In Madison, police responded to a 911 call late Sunday afternoon from an 85-year-old woman on Horsetail Hill Road, part of Route 43, who told dispatchers it was getting dark, she was cold and the power had been off for a long time. Trees were down everywhere in the area and Central Maine Power Co. line workers were slowly restoring power.
“I asked (her) how she felt and she stated that she was getting cold,” Officer Wade Walker said in his report. “I advised (her) that I would check back on her a little later.”
Walker said the woman also was concerned that a shutter on her window was banging hard against the house and might break the window. He said he removed the shutter and left his card with the woman and told her to call back if she needed help.
An hour later the woman called saying she had a pain in her chest from the cold. Walker returned to her home and notified the dispatch center to send an ambulance to take her to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan to be checked.
On Monday, the woman was returned to her home after power there was restored.
In Skowhegan, a roughly 100-foot-tall pine tree that crashed onto the entrance of the town’s historic Swinging Bridge was the among damage from the high wind.
The bridge itself was not damaged, but guide wires that are part of the bridge’s suspension were struck by the tree.
The tree snapped about 20 feet from the ground and was one of three large ones in a small, town-owned park behind the Federated Church on Island Avenue.
Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said town highway crews were waiting for power company workers to disconnect electrical lines and a transformer downed before beginning the clean up operation. A utility pole with a park light also was knocked down by the falling tree, which shattered into several large pieces and blocked access to the bridge. Dore said by 5 p.m. Monday that CMP workers had not yet gotten to the tree.
CMP line crews worked throughout the day Monday to restore power to customers who lost service. Wind chills overnight Sunday were near or below zero, with actual temperatures in the low teens by Monday morning.
Power restoration was particularly challenging in parts of Franklin, Oxford, and Somerset Counties, where storm debris closed roads and blocked access to some of the most remote parts of the company’s service area, according to a CMP release from Gail N. Rice.
An estimated 300 people, including line workers, pole-setting crews, tree crews, assessors, safety specialists and supervisors worked on service restoration Monday, Rice said.
Sunday was a day of sustained wind of 20-30 mph with gusts close to 50 mph. Trees, utility poles and wires were reported down in dozens of communities, in some instances sparking grass and brush fires from live wires.
The company expected to complete restoration in the Kennebec Valley by late afternoon. Most of the remaining customers were expected to have service back by late Monday evening.
By 9 a.m., Monday an estimated 5,253 customers remained without service, mostly in Franklin, Oxford, and Somerset counties, according to a company release.
Downtown Farmington lost power for about 30 minutes during the high winds Sunday at about 6 p.m.
Attorney Paul Mills, who has a law office downtown , said according to his records this is the third time the downtown has unexpectedly lost power since the 1998 ice storm.
The other times were March 2011 and later that year on Dec. 19.
According to AAA, 43.4 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, down slightly from the 44 million Turkey Day travelers last year.
Most of those travelers — roughly 90 percent — will travel by car. Gas prices this year are the lowest since 2010, according to the AAA website. Gas prices in central Maine are averaging $3.43 a gallon this week, according to MaineGasPrices.com.
Rain is predicted for central Maine on Wednesday, one of the two biggest travel days for Thanksgiving, according to the National Weather Service forecast office in Gray with high temperatures near 49.
Wednesday night there will be rain and snow showers, becoming all snow after 3 a.m.. with low temperatures around 27.
On Thanksgiving Day there is a 30 percent chance of snow showers before 7a.m., then becoming partly sunny, with a high near 29.
After that, it’s back to the deep freeze Thursday night, when it will be partly cloudy, with a low around 11 degrees, but without the howling wind felt on Sunday and early Monday.
Sunday, the other big travel day of the Thanksgiving weekend, is forecast to be partly sunny, with temperatures in the 30s.