The most difficult Maine winter on record was the winter of 1816, which has been referred to as “the year without a summer” or “eighteen-hundred-and-froze-to-death.” The winter weather that year extended right into the summer months.

While not every Maine winter is that difficult, some winter storms can be not only challenging but life-threatening. Loss of power because of high winds, ice and heavy snowfall can mean no heat or running water and no way to prepare meals for days or weeks at a time. That’s why it’s important to have a backup power source when winter storms hit.

One of the best ways to prepare for loss of power is to purchase a generator. Kristen Frost, business manager at Mid Maine Generator in Winthrop and Wiscasset, said they sell Kohler generators that start running automatically within about 11 seconds of a power outage. She said the generators run on propane or natural gas.

“The size of the unit needed for a household can obviously vary which is why a site visit to the property is important,” said Frost. “We use that time to evaluate the type of switch we would use for the service and also the size of the generator needed for that particular house.”

According to Frost, the number of Maine homeowners purchasing their generators has increased during the past two to three years because homeowners have gotten fed up with being without power for several days after windstorms. She said their customers have been very pleased with the propane operated generators because the units come on so quickly and they don’t have to go outdoors to put gasoline in the unit every six hours or so like they would with a portable generator.

“They don’t have to roll it out of the garage either,” said Frost. “It simply comes on.”


Frost said their generator company is unique because their employees are not only licensed electricians but they are also propane certified. She said that means they can offer a turn-key package for the installation.

The price range of generators varies with the size of the generator, the size of the automatic transfer switch, and the distance between the unit and the tanks. The average price tag for generators sold at Mid Maine Generators is between $8,000-$9,000 for a turn-key installation, said Frost. Lower-cost options for portable generators run around $1,100 and under, she said.

In addition to purchasing a generator, the following tips can help homeowners to survive harsh winter storms. The  tips are adapted from sources such as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and survival websites.

• Purchase a wood stove or fireplace insert and keep several days’ worth of dry firewood on hand. Be sure to have plenty of matches, too.

• Store drinking water in clean containers with lids or buy bottled water. The recommendation for drinking water is a gallon per day per person.

• Just before the storm begins, fill the bathtub with water for flushing toilets.


• Snow can also be melted on a wood stove for flushing purposes if the power is out for any length of time.

• Make sure to have enough laundry washed to wear for at least several days.

• Buy hand sanitizer for disinfecting hands.

• Store canned tuna or canned meats, packaged sausage meats or hard salami, canned baked beans, rice or instant potatoes that could be cooked on a wood stove, dried fruits, cereal, shelf stable milk, peanut butter, granola bars or power bars, canned soups or chili, crackers, juice, and/or sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade.

• Make sure to have a non-electric can opener.

• Keep a supply of candles and flashlights with extra batteries.


• Keep extra blankets, quilts, and/or sleeping bags on hand.

• Camping tents with sleeping bags inside can be set up right in the living room to make a smaller space in which to stay warm. (Be careful not to set them up close to a wood stove or kerosene heater because tents and sleeping bags are flammable.) Body heat can help to provide warmth.

• Hang blankets over drafty doors and windows. Tuck an extra blanket or bath towel at the bottom of drafty doors.

• Close the shades and curtains when the sun goes down and open those when the sun rises to let in the warmth of the sun.

• Close the doors of rooms that aren’t in use to cut down drafts.

• If it’s safe to be outdoors for a short time, food can be cooked outdoors on a barbecue grill.


• Wear multiple layers of clothing but not enough clothing to cause sweating.

• Wear hats, gloves, and warm socks. Keep hands and feet warm to prevent frostbite.
• Be sure to have enough prescription medication on hand before the storm begins. People with diabetes should be sure to have plenty of blood glucose testing strips on hand.

• Be sure to charge cellphones ahead of time.

• Establish a buddy system with a friend, relative, or neighbor to check on each other, if possible, throughout the storm.

• Keep plenty of gas in the car for emergencies.

• Keep blankets, food, water, cellphone charger, and a flashlight in the car for emergency travel.

• Cellphones and computers can be charged with a power inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter when the car is running.

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