FARMINGDALE — Karen and Douglas Anderson learn from experience.

After the Ice Storm of 1998 and the power outage that resulted, they bought a generator.

And now, in the third day of a widespread power outage in Maine, their Burke Street home has heat and light, television — now that their cable is back on — and the ability to do laundry, thanks to the power engine chugging away.

They are able to keep track of the recovery efforts underway to restore power lost early Monday across 14 of Maine’s 16 counties as a strong storm pushed its way into Maine.

Their Hayford Heights neighbors, many of whom do not have generators, are getting by as best they can, just as thousands are doing across Maine.

Leona Russell is one of them.

Russell lives alone with her dog in an apartment just down the hill from the Andersons, and on Wednesday she was sitting in her darkened living room, wearing four layers of sweaters and shirts with a blanket nearby when Karen Anderson stopped by with a battery-operated lantern. Anderson has been bringing hot coffee and food down to Russell.

Russell, who suffered a stroke years ago and has difficulty speaking, had spent some time at her daughter’s home in Gardiner during the outage, but she wanted to come home to spend time in surroundings familiar to her and her dog.

“You’re going to need to go back,” Anderson said. “I’ll take you, or your daughter will come get you.”

“I don’t know,” Russell said.

Her only sources of information are her daughter, Anderson and the other neighbors who stop by to check on her.

Anderson showed Russell how to turn the lantern on and off and made her practice before returning to her own home.

COORDINATING EFFORTS

Earlier Wednesday, at the second daily briefing at the Maine Emergency Management Agency, state officials once again urged residents to be patient as work on power lines continues across the state.

Kevin Rousseau, state exercise officer at MEMA, said the agency recently completed a yearlong cycle of emergency management exercises based on the 1998 ice storm that involved power companies, county emergency management officials, fire departments, first responders, the National Guard and others.

“This week, we’re cashing in on the relationships and trust we have built,” Rousseau said.

From the state emergency management perspective, the response is heading in the right direction, he said.

“It can be frustrating for the individual person who doesn’t have power right now,” he said, “but rest assured, the cavalry is here.”

Utility trucks from other New England states and Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois and Canada continue to arrive in Maine to work in concert with Central Maine Power Co. and Emera to restore power.

The real heroes, Rousseau said, are the volunteer firefighters, first responders and utility crews who have been working since Monday to clear roads and restore power.

Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police, said while the weather is good, safety hazards remain in the wake of the storm. Some traffic lights remain out, and power has not yet been restored to railroad crossings.

“Even if a road is open,” he said, “doesn’t mean it’s passable in both lanes.”

Williams cautioned people to wait until fallen or broken trees can be cleared safely rather than try to clear them away themselves, because they could be near fallen wires that are still live.

The Augusta Civic Center opened Wednesday afternoon as an emergency warming center and overnight shelter. Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

TAKING SHELTER

More than 90 shelters across the state are offering residents a variety of services including food in some places, charging for electronic devices, hot showers, and a warm place to stay. A list of the shelters and what they offer may be found at http://www.maine.gov/mema/mema_masscare.shtml.

The American Red Cross opened shelters in Augusta, Norridgewock and Jackman. Dave Sheehan, regional disaster program manager for the American Red Cross of Maine, said there are 65 predetermined shelters across the state. Agency officials work with superintendents at schools, and if they know by lunchtime a shelter is needed, they can have one mobilized and ready by the time people get out of work and discover they still don’t have power. Cots, blankets and food are available at each location, but those needing the shelters are asked to bring their own hygiene and medical products.

The city of Augusta and the Red Cross opened an emergency warming center and overnight shelter Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Those in need can go to the north wing of the civic center, according to a news release from Fire Chief Roger Audette.

Shortly before 5 p.m., only one person had stopped by, but cots were set up for about 20 people.

Civic Center Director Earl Kingsbury said 100 to 120 people could be accommodated overnight. The round-the-clock warming center with space for an infirmary and an area for people to be with their pets will be available as long as it’s needed.

They planned to serve some kind of dinner — sandwiches if only a few people showed up and a full dinner for more people.

“We’re playing it by ear,” he said.

If county residents need a ride to the shelter, they should call the Augusta Police Department at 620-8300.

In Norridgewock, Mill Stream Elementary School on Mercer Road was closed for school to accommodate the shelter, which opened on Tuesday. In Jackman, the shelter is at Forest Hills Consolidated School on Main Street.

Norridgewock residents Glenda Soucy-Benta and Kristina Bouffard were sitting at a table in the school’s cafeteria, charging their phones late Wednesday afternoon. Though the two were sitting together, they had never met before that day.

Soucy-Benta had arrived at 3 p.m. to charge her phone. Bouffard had spent the previous night in the shelter. She said she had to sleep on the floor because the cots provided were uncomfortable. However, she said it was better than a cold house.

“I’d rather not be in pitch dark,” Bouffard said.

Kendra Atwood, the shelter manager for the Red Cross, said the agency had spent the day trying to get the word out about the shelter. Both Bouffard and Soucy-Benta heard about the offering on Facebook.

Atwood said the shelter was set up initially for 30 people but could hold up to 100.

Bouffard, whose phone had been dead for two days, said not many people stayed at the shelter Tuesday night.

Bouffard and Soucy-Benta said they didn’t know anyone in town who had power, but Bouffard said she knew someone in Skowhegan with power. She said that person wouldn’t let her stay over. The two also said they looked into booking hotels but couldn’t find anything affordable. Bouffard said she had been forced to leave her dogs and cats at home, because she couldn’t bring them all to the shelter.

“My parents go and check on them,” she said.

Soucy-Benta said her house was down to 55 degrees earlier in the day. Wednesday night the temperature was expected to drop into the 40s.

The hardest part, they said, was when the sun went down and there was nothing to do.

“It’s boring at night,” Soucy-Benta said.

“It sucks because ‘Survivor’ is on tonight,” Bouffard said.

Leaving the school were Beckie Warger and her daughter Sadie, who had dropped off a few board games before going to get gasoline for a generator. Warger said that aside from no power, she hadn’t been too affected. But she said a neighbor of hers lost a car when a tree fell on it. She said she hoped to have power back by 6 p.m. Thursday, while others were unsure when the power would come back.

The Belgrade Community Center opened its doors to residents, posting on Facebook that it had power and WiFi for those who needed to charge their devices. They were allowing people to fill water jugs, brush their teeth and get out of their houses for a bit.

Skowhegan Area High School was offering showers to residents without power.

In Waterville, the Champions Fitness Club off upper Main Street in the Elm Plaza was offering to let anyone without power to the facility’s shower free, according to Renée Raymond, operations manager.

“Just trying to do our part in helping those in need,” Raymond said in an email Wednesday.

ROUGHING IT

While some might turn to shelters to get warm and have a hot shower, others remain more resilient — or perhaps stubborn — and stay in their homes. Those individuals, such as Rome resident Ken Knight and his family, have had to live in the dark once the sun went down.

“It’s been a little rough,” Knight said

Knight, who lives on Ladd Road, does not have a generator. The family has been hauling water out of their pool to boil and to fill the toilets. He’s been cooking food on a turkey stove in his garage.

“The good thing is it hasn’t gotten real cold,” he said as the sun began to descend in the sky Wednesday evening.

The obvious comparison many Mainers want to make is with the infamous Ice Storm of 1998, which left much of the state without power for days in frigid winter weather. Knight said he was without power for nine days then.

“But we survived,” he said.

His daughter Jody, who was hauling water and lives in the building next to her father’s, said it’s been even more difficult, since her sick mother just returned from the hospital a few days ago. She said they don’t know when the power will come back on.

It was 39 degrees in her home Wednesday morning, she said, cold enough for a person’s breath to be visible.

“Every day it’s dropping,” she said.

Knight and his wife rely on a Coleman lantern for light when the sun goes down.

“I sit there and watch the light,” he said.

The Knights know about nearby shelters, including the one in Norridgewock, but elected to stay at home. Jody Knight said the shelters almost make it worse, because she gets even colder after returning to a cold home after having a chance to warm up.

“We don’t go nowhere,” Knight said, adding he lost power during a World Series game, making the power outage all the more bitter. While he cooked burgers on his outdoor stove Wednesday night, he said they already had lost food that spoiled.

“We’ll get through it, I guess,” he said. “I hope.”

STILL MORE TO BE DONE

According to Maine State Police, 568 utility poles were broken in the state as a result of the storm.

As of 7 p.m., more than 24,305 people in Kennebec County did not have power, according to the Central Maine Power website. In Somerset County the number stood at 9,503. Most of them have been out of power since Monday, when a rain and wind storm blew through the state, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands. Statewide, the number of CMP customers without power was 159,346 as of 7 p.m.

In addition, some schools remained closed Wednesday.

Susan Faloon, public information officer at MEMA, said the Department of Education said schools in 34 districts remained closed Wednesday, including Regional School Unit 12, which encompasses Chelsea, Palermo, Somerville, Windsor and Whitefield.

Twelve other districts, including RSU 2, where elementary schools in Monmouth and Dresden remained closed, were experiencing partial closures.

In School Administrative District 49, the Fairfield-based school district, Clinton Elementary School was still closed and without power as of Wednesday.

In AOS 92, Vassalboro Community School is the last in the district to remain closed because of loss of power and has been closed since the storm hit Monday.

In Lincoln County, emergency management officials asked residents to help assess the storm’s impact by taking photos of fallen trees in the roads and public and private buildings that have been damaged, and sending those photos to [email protected] The email should have the town name and the words “public” or “private” in the subject line, and the email also should provide an address and, if possible, a geotag indicating the location of the damage. “Only take pictures if it is safe to do so,” the county’s emergency management agency wrote in a Facebook post.

But in Kennebec County, emergency management officials are warning residents not to submit photos of storm damage at this point — mainly for safety reasons.

“I don’t want anybody near downed power lines,” said Art Churchill, deputy director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency. “I’d rather people not go out taking photos. If you’re close enough to take a picture, you’re not safe. Every line is live until CMP tells you otherwise.”

Right now, Kennebec County officials are mainly focused on getting people to shelters and getting power restored, Churchill said.

In Farmingdale, Douglas Anderson was contemplating rigging a cover for his home’s generator to keep it dry on Thursday, when rain is expected. He had just bought 10 more gallons of fuel to keep it going until power is restored, but the Andersons have no idea when that will be.

This is the second time in the last 11 months that the generator has been fired up; a storm in late December knocked out power for a couple of days. It will continue to come in handy.

Karen Anderson said another neighbor of hers was on Facebook, offering to pay anyone who will let her, her husband and their three sons shower.

“I said, ‘You don’t need to pay me. You can come to our house,” she said.

Staff writers Charles Eichacker and Colin Ellis contributed reporting.

 

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ