Maine’s two largest power companies continued to make progress Saturday in an effort to turn electricity back on for about 41,000 customers who remained in the dark after Monday’s storm.

Central Maine Power estimated that nearly 93 percent of its customers had power restored by Saturday evening, but cautioned that progress was beginning to slow because crews are finding more broken utility poles than expected, according to company spokeswoman Gail Rice.

“Some of the restoration estimates are getting pushed back,” Rice said. “We’re getting to the stage where each repair brings back fewer and fewer customers. It’s very slow going. It’s very labor-intensive. And we can work for a long time in a little neighborhood and only bring back a handful of customers.”

Central Maine Power officials began the day by saying they had more people and equipment working Saturday to hook customers back up than any day so far this past week. Their goal was to restore power by the end of the day to all of the 35,000 customers still out from the 405,000 peak, but said it is possible that 10,000 customers will remain without power on Sunday and beyond.

“The team aspires to have 100 percent but we also want to be realistic and honest and want the customers to know what we are thinking about this,” said Sara Burns, president and CEO of CMP.

By 9 p.m., there were still 21,700 CMP customers without electricity, including 6,400 in Lincoln County and 6,100 in Cumberland County.

Rice said crews installed more than 200 utility poles Friday – more than they ever have in one day – and have brought in special equipment to help set poles in ledge. In all, about 1,200 poles were broken as a result of the storm, she said.

About 6,600 Emera Maine customers began the day without power, down from 90,000 customers at the peak. On Friday afternoon, 19 more bucket trucks and more than 24 additional line workers from Emera Maine’s affiliate, Tampa Electric, arrived to help. Emera also had a goal of restoring all of its customers’ power by the end of Saturday, but said some remote customers may have to wait into the next week.

By 9 p.m., Emera reported that 2,080 customers still did not have power.

Central Maine Power officials said Saturday that its restoration resources were being directed to Lincoln, Kennebec and Cumberland counties, where the bulk of the outages remained. Freeport and Brunswick were among areas hardest hit.

“We’re adding more trucks and people to those towns in hopes we can knock this number down some more and get people up and running,” Rice said.

CMP entered the sixth day of its restoration with more equipment and manpower than in the previous week as more crews poured into the state Friday.

“Today is the heaviest staff day because we have been acquiring resources as late as yesterday. I am confident we are going to make a lot of progress today,” Burns said earlier.

There are about 3,300 people from 14 states and three Canadian provinces working to restore power to CMP customers and about 700 line trucks, 425 tree crew bucket trucks and hundreds of support trucks. The company faced particular challenges restoring power on the islands and seasonal camp roads.

“We are struggling in Reedville, just 10 miles from here,” Burns said.

On Saturday, there were 1,200 customers with unique challenges, said Doug Herling, vice president of electric operations. Those customers require labor-intensive individual repairs to hook them back into the system.

“Once you get the major transmission lines, you work your way down to major, then to single,” Herling said.

The company does not expect to release a cost estimate of the restoration efforts until next week, Burns said.

She said there has only been one mishap during the restoration effort, when an out-of-state bucket truck backed into a CMP pickup truck. No one was hurt and the incident was minor, but the company stepped up its training to prevent further incidents, Burns said.

Burns said ticks have been a problem for workers. “We have done an enormous amount of work to get people to spray down their clothes, look for ticks. We are still telling people to have the ticks removed,” she said.

Shelters across Maine are providing showers, phone charging, food and other services. A list of shelters is available at the Maine Emergency Management Agency website or by telephone at 211.

Staff Writer Randy Billings contributed to this report.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: bquimby

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