Central Maine Power warned customers Thursday night that it could be several days before electricity is restored in some coastal areas in the wake of a powerful storm that pummeled Maine Thursday morning, knocking out power to more than 219,000 homes and businesses at its height.

“We have heard loud and clear from our customers during storms that they simply want to know what to expect so they can plan,” CMP President and CEO Doug Herling said in a news release issued Thursday night. “Once we had a thorough understanding of the extent of the damage this afternoon we wanted to advise customers as soon as possible that they may be without power for several days so they can make necessary arrangements.”

The fall nor’easter caused widespread and significant destruction when the strong winds and heavy rains felled trees throughout southern Maine, downing lines, damaging cars and homes, and delaying or canceling classes across the region. Damage along the coast was severe, with sailboats washed onto Willard Beach in South Portland and a boat tossed onto the rocks at Bug Light.

As of 12:40 a.m. Friday, more than 119,600 CMP customers were still without power. The highest concentration of outages was in Cumberland County, which had almost 55,000 outages, and York County with 16,000. More than half of the customers remained without power in Alfred, Cape Elizabeth, Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Harpswell, Pownal and South Portland.

CMP line repair crews are being assisted by more than 100 contractor line crews and an additional 190 repair crews that were brought into Maine on Thursday from Connecticut and New York, the company said in a post on its Facebook page. More crews from Canada were also heading to Maine on Thursday night.

Michael Ekster, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Gray, described the windstorm as a “meteorological bomb.” He explained that a sudden pressure drop when the storm arrived over Maine caused explosive weather developments that included driving rains and powerful gusts.

Ekster said the Portland International Jetport recorded a wind gust of 62 mph at 4:45 a.m. – the ninth-highest gust ever recorded at the jetport since record keeping began in 1872. Thursday’s gust rivaled the 2017 Halloween gust that reached 69 mph.

A 70 mph gust was recorded early Thursday at a buoy near the Isle of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast. Though it rained hard – Portland received 1.18 inches of rain – powerful winds were the storm’s main feature.

Emera Maine, which serves Greater Bangor, Down East and northern parts of the state, was reporting more than 13,000 outages Thursday night. And like CMP, Emera  indicated that it could take crews through the weekend to restore power to everyone.

A tree split in half on Bellevue Avenue in South Portland, in the Willard Beach neighborhood. Photo by Jessica Routhier

“Emera Maine will be working into the weekend to restore service to all customers,” the company said in a post on its website. “Although crews will continue to work through the evening, customers who have not had service restored by 10 p.m. Thursday should plan to be without power overnight.”

Scarborough police issued a statement on the department’s Facebook page squashing any hope that power might be restored in that town Thursday night.

“No power restoration will occur overnight. CMP will be starting power restoration work tomorrow and there are no estimates on when power will be restored for Scarborough,” the department said in a post that noted CMP spent most the day clearing debris, removing downed power lines and helping to open roads.

The devastation was so severe in Falmouth that the town’s police department posted a map on its Facebook page of at least five roads that had to be closed due to downed power lines. Among the roads that remained closed Thursday night were a section of Mountain Road, Merrill Road and Allen Avenue Extension.

The city of Portland was forced to close Evergreen Cemetery on Thursday after about a dozen trees that had been uprooted by the strong winds toppled and fell on grave markers. Evergreen Cemetery is the state’s largest cemetery and is the final resting place for many of the state’s most well-known historical and political figures.

City arborist Jeff Tarling described the damage at Evergreen Cemetery as “significant.” He said the city received more than 200 calls for service to remove downed trees.

A boat was tossed onto the rocks at Bug Light in South Portland during Thursday’s nor’easter. Staff photo by Chad Gilley

Located off Stevens Avenue in Portland’s Deering neighborhood, Evergreen Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Portland neighborhoods suffered extensive damage. Josh Galvin and Lily Hanstein woke up Thursday morning to a tree falling on their Pitt Street home. Branches blocked their front door forcing them to use a side door to get outside.

The tree knocked down their chimney and crushed the front of Hanstein’s car. They were not injured and to their surprise, after the tree had been removed, the damage to their house was relatively minor.

The city announced Thursday that coastal islands, including Peaks, will be without power until at least Friday.

Many Mainers slept through the storm, only to wake up Thursday morning to heavy rain and gusting winds.  Roads across southern Maine were strewn with branches and power lines.

 

 

‘EVERYBODY GOT HIT’

Bill and Allison Dale of South Portland woke up at about 3:45 a.m. Thursday to a loud boom. They waited in the darkness, felt their Willard Beach home shimmy and shake, and realized that all of Birch Road was without power.

When daylight came, they went downstairs to investigate. One of the main limbs of the large maple that had shaded their front porch since they moved in 40 years ago had twisted off in the wind, crashing on the porch and roof, which was now leaking, and dragging power lines with it.

“So much to be done, but nothing that I can do,” Allison Dale said. “An arborist must take the tree. CMP will clear the lines. Insurance will fix the roof. Meanwhile I am without power, so I can’t do anything, not even vacuum or do laundry. I am sitting here reading, and maybe I’ll knit, I don’t know. Just being glad to be OK, I guess.”

A fallen tree on Churchill Road in South Portland. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

Another tree on the other side of the home had fallen, too, this one into their neighbor’s house. The young couple who lived there were away, leaving their two young boys in the care of their grandmother, who had decided they should all sleep downstairs during the storm, Dale said.

“We’ve never lost a tree before, not since we moved in,” Dale said. “And now in one storm, we’ve lost two. Everybody around here got hit.”

WIDESPREAD DISRUPTION

 

 

In South Portland, damage was extensive in the Willard Beach neighborhood, where trees and poles were toppled, and power was out throughout downtown Berwick, where schools were closed.

Route 1 in Saco near the Scarborough line was closed before dawn because a utility pole and lines were down across the road. Power outages across the city kept many coffee shops closed, resulting in long lines at cafes and restaurants across the river in Biddeford.

On Thursday morning in downtown Freeport, a parade of cars and trucks entered the McDonald’s drive-thru and quickly drove away as the fast-food restaurant’s drive-through speaker had been covered with a handwritten sign announcing that McDonald’s was closed temporarily because of the power outage.

A boat is tossed onto the rocks at Bug Light in South Portland during a nor’easter on Thursday. Staff photo by Chad Gilley

Spectrum experienced cable and internet outages, the majority of which are caused by the loss of power, spokesman Andrew Russell said. He did not provide estimates of the number of customers affected Thursday.

“In some cases customers may have power, but no cable. That’s because there may still be a loss of power to our network nearby or damage to our lines serving the area,” Russell said in an email. “We’re working to restore those as quickly – and as safely – as possible.”

The organizers of a conference for Maine’s biological sciences industry scheduled for Thursday afternoon said the conference had to be postponed until an undetermined date because of a power outage on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus, which resulted in the cancellation of all classes and events for the day.

Staff Writers Ray Routhier, Bob Keyes, Penelope Overton, Megan Gray and J. Craig Anderson contributed to this report. 

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