Howling wind and driving rain Sunday toppled trees, knocked out power to more than 50,000 customers statewide and forced some Mainers out of their homes.

With a snowfall forecast to begin around the evening commute Tuesday, line workers from out of state joined the battle to restore power Monday. Gov. Paul LePage declared a limited emergency to allow Canadian line workers to enter the state to speed up the effort. The declaration also extends the hours that line crews can work.

“This effort will allow power crews to restore power in areas that were impacted by the storm,” LePage said in his emergency declaration. “The ability to have electrical service repaired quickly is critical to protect public health and safety of Mainers.”

About 25,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers were in the dark Sunday night. By 12:40 a.m. Tuesday, just 812 were still without power.

Conditions were worse farther north. A total of 28,803 Emera Maine customers were without power late Sunday. By 12:25 a.m. Tuesday, just under 5,900 were still waiting for service to be restored.

Sunday’s surge of rain and melting snow caused some rivers to overflow their banks Sunday night into Monday morning. But by later Monday, rivers had subsided, allowing transportation workers to check for damage.

The Presumpscot River dropped back to 12 feet in Westbrook, after cresting 2 feet above the 15-foot flood stage overnight.

The heavy rain – combined with a couple of inches of melting snow – washed out road shoulders and inundated some roads near streams.

West Pownal Road in North Yarmouth was closed Monday because of high water, as was Blackstrap Road in Falmouth between Davis Farm and Hamlin roads, until the Maine Department of Transportation could inspect a bridge that had water over it, according to officials.

In Lewiston, an eight-unit apartment building was evacuated Sunday night after heavy rain caused the foundation to buckle. Residents at 184 Randall Road heard a loud noise as the foundation tilted inward, cracking in several places and breaking heating pipes in the cellar, said Gildace Arsenault, director of the city’s Planning and Code Enforcement Department.

Also in Lewiston, wind peeled the roofs off two flat-roof buildings, though rubber liners prevented water from pouring in.

During the height of the storm, Carrie Seaver of Freeport was left scrambling to rescue her chickens after a huge tree fell, crushing their coop.

“We saw chickens in the yard and thought the door had swung open because the winds were so strong,” she said Monday. Instead, a tree had splintered the coop, allowing a few of the 27 chickens to escape but trapping most of them inside.

Seaver and her husband, Barton Seaver, along with their next door neighbors, cut their way through the branches of the tree to rescue the remaining chickens. One by one, in the midst of the storm, they put each hen in a cardboard box with a sheet over it and shuttled it to another outbuilding that serves as a writing studio.

The chickens huddled for warmth, though eventually they made a mess of the studio, Carrie Seaver said. When daylight broke, after the traumatic experience, they had laid just one egg among them.

Wolfe Neck Farm agreed to take 17 of the chickens, and now the couple are trying to buy a smaller, prefabricated coop for the 10 they couldn’t stand to give up, Carrie Seaver said.

When the raging storm knocked out power to Aki, a Japanese restaurant in Brunswick, it knocked out some of the menu. To the delight of diners, sushi chefs continued to prepare raw fish delicacies by the light of cellphones held by other employees.

Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm was spawned by a front between the bitter cold in the upper Midwest and the warm air in the East and over the ocean.

“The fact some of the ground was frozen added to our misery, I think,” Hawley said. “The water ran off faster than it might have otherwise if the ground hadn’t been frozen.”

The weather service reported gusts up to 80 mph Sunday night in Lubec and 66 mph in Eastport, 59 mph in South Bristol, 56 mph in Brewer and 52 mph in Greenville.

The storm brought a high temperature of 52 degrees to Portland, along with 2.09 inches of rain. The rainfall record in Portland for the date is 3.56 inches, on Jan. 10, 1977.

Hawley said Standish got 2.48 inches of rain; Gorham, 2.4 inches; Hollis, 2.4 inches; Wells, 1.85 inches; and Rockport, 2.77 inches. Hawley said gusts hit 47 mph in Portland.

Chris Kimble, a meteorologist with the weather service in Gray, said Tuesday’s storm has the potential to bring quite a bit of snow to the state.

Portland and areas south of the city could get between 2 and 4 inches of snow. But in areas north and east of Bangor, the snowfall amounts could be between 6 and 10 inches.

Kimble said the snow will begin as flurries in Portland around the time of the evening commute. The snowstorm should intensify after 8 p.m. and continue through the night.

The storm should end by Wednesday morning.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

 


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