Central Maine Power restored electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses by Wednesday night, leaving roughly 12,000 customers still without power in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias.

At the peak of Tuesday night’s storm, which packed heavy rain with powerful wind gusts, about 118,000 CMP customers lost power, CMP spokeswoman Emily Spencer said. Repair crews worked throughout the day Wednesday on restoring outages, most of which were caused by trees falling on power lines.

Line crews were expected to work late into Wednesday night and through Thursday morning, Spencer said.

“This monumental effort is a testament to the dedication of the CMP workforce and its contracted partners,” David Flanagan, CMP executive chairman, said in a statement issued Wednesday night. “Our careful planning leading up to this storm allowed us to achieve these positive restoration numbers, and we remain focused on promptly restoring power to the rest of our customer base as soon as possible.”

CMP said that while most customers should get their power turned on Wednesday night, some areas in York and Oxford counties might have to wait until Thursday night.

During the restoration effort, CMP crews and contractors adhered to COVID-19 protocols that required appropriate social distancing practices, wearing mask as situations required, allowing one employee per vehicle, and entering a customer home only in the event of an emergency.

HIT HARDER THAN EXPECTED

The storm moved into Maine on Tuesday evening, bringing strong winds that downed trees and knocked out power to thousands of customers. Dozens of roads were closed across Cumberland and York counties because of downed power lines. Boats on Sebago Lake were washed ashore by 5-foot waves.

“We didn’t think we’d get hit quite as hard as it we did because we were on the edge of this thing,” said Art Cleaves, director of the York County Emergency Management Agency. “There was very significant, very fast, heavy action in a short period of time. We had a very significant number of road closures and power lines down in the road.”

Gusts of more than 40 mph were recorded in Portland. A new peak wind gust for August of 147 mph was recorded on Mount Washington, according to the National Weather Service.

By late Tuesday night, more than 91,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers had lost power. The number of outages had dropped to about 24,350 by 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. CMP crews worked through the night to assess the damage, but repairs were slowed because the winds were too strong to allow crews to go up in bucket trucks, the company said.

Paul Rudenberg of Falmouth drags his dingy onto the docks at Falmouth Town Landing on Tuesday afternoon while preparing for the storm. “I lost one a couple years ago in a bigger storm,” he said. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Cumberland County was the hardest hit with outages, with more than 27,000 outages Tuesday night. CMP reported that about 3,700 customers in the county remained without power as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Most of Freeport was without power until midafternoon. Shaw’s supermarket in Freeport had to remove its entire stock of meats and frozen foods from store shelves because of the prolonged power loss.

Large outages also were reported in New Gloucester and Naples.

All of CMP’s customers in Limerick and Newfield were without power Wednesday, while Limington, Lebanon, Waterboro and Acton also reported widespread outages.

CMP said it had 200 crews working Wednesday to assess damage and restore power. They were assisted by 240 contracted line workers, including 80 line workers from New Brunswick, and 100 tree crews.

A fisherman paddles to Falmouth Town Landing after mooring his boat with the storm approaching on Tuesday afternoon. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

 

CMP OUTAGE WEBSITE FALTERS AGAIN

The company’s online storm outage list was down at 11 a.m. Wednesday, and as of 1 p.m. it was displaying text that said, “We are currently updating our website to provide you with an improved customer experience!”

A message on the CMP Facebook page said the company is “working to get it up and running as quickly as possible” and said updates would be shared on social media.

“With 118,000 customers impacted, we hope to have power restored to 50 percent of customers at noon,” the company said.

The website was back up by 2 p.m. but still did not show restoration times for many areas.

Website issues following a major storm are not a new problem for CMP, which has struggled in the past to provide timely, accurate information just as customers are trying to find out when power will be restored. Following a 2019 nor’easter that knocked out power to 200,000 customers, CMP’s website listed estimated restoration times as 2068. At the time, the company called its website issues “embarrassing.”

Crews may be moved down from other parts of the state to help with repairs in Cumberland and York counties, which saw the most damage from severe winds, CMP spokesperson Catharine Hartnett said.

Annie T. Lively stands in the doorway of her house in Limington next to a downed tree that narrowly missed her home during Tuesday night’s storm. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Hartnett said much of the damage was caused by large trees that fell across roads, taking down power lines. Those trees are typically outside of the company’s trimming zone, she said.

While marinas on Casco Bay reported there was no serious damage from the storm, boats on Sebago Lake did not fare as well.

BIG WAVES ON SEBAGO

In Sebago, Ray and Cheryl Nelson, the third-generation owners of Sebago Lake Cottages, had been monitoring the storm for days. When the forecast showed showed that Sebago was going to get clipped by the edge of it, Ray Nelson decided not to pull his seven pontoon boats from the water, as he does during hurricanes.

“The wind was incredible. It was so windy down there we couldn’t hear each other talk,” he said. “It wasn’t a gust – it was just a sustained incredible wind.”

Nelson said he watched as waves washed over a boat that was moored about 200 feet from the beach. Within a short time, five of his seven pontoon boats had washed ashore. Most are likely totaled, he said.

“The waves were so it high it piled (the pontoon boats) up on the beach and one boat would smash into the next one and then into the next one,” he said. “They dragged my moorings right in with them. I’ve never seen that before.”

Linda Tibbetts cleans up debris from her yard in Limington after Tuesday night’s storm. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

As the wind whipped around them, Nelson and two men from a nearby cottage tried to save some of the boats, but became trapped between two of them as they were pounded with 5-foot waves. Nelson ended up being checked out by paramedics, but said he was not injured.

“It got exhausting when your head is underwater and you’re getting pounded for a few minutes,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, a half-dozen people – some of them strangers – arrived at the cottages to help Nelson clean up and remove the damaged boats.

“The nice thing is we live in a small town and everybody showed up this morning to help out without me even making a phone call,” he said.

Cleaves, from York County EMA, said Sanford, Acton, Shapleigh, Limington, Parsonsfield, Cornish and Newfield were especially hard hit, with many roads closed and reports of trees and power lines down. Power had to be shut in many of those areas “because it was coming so fast,” he said.

Cleaves said local fire and police crews struggled to find enough people to mark and guard locations where there were live power lines down.

A line worker cuts a tree that fell on a power line in Limington. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“First responders were stretched to the limit for four or five hours,” he said.

During the storm, Cleaves had to drive 5 miles to the office and saw tree limbs “falling very quickly everywhere.”

“I noticed many people who were out traveling when they should not have been,” he said. “It is dangerous when trees bring down lines.”

NEARLY ALL OF FREEPORT LOSES POWER

In Freeport, nearly all of the town’s 4,900 electric customers were without power for most of Wednesday.

“We were told that a main transmission line bringing power into town was lost in last night’s storm and that CMP is working to find and repair the problem. The good news is that although there were a few scattered trees and electric lines down, there does not appear to be widespread damage at this time,” Freeport officials said in an update on the town website.

There were no injuries or deaths reported in Maine in connection with the storm.

At least eight people were killed as Tropical Storm Isaias battered the East Coast with rain and fierce winds after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, The Associated Press reported.

Joyce Roberge, 60, of North Conway, New Hampshire, was killed Tuesday night when a tree fell into her apartment building. Police said they were called to the building on Kearsage Road by a woman trapped in a basement apartment. That woman was rescued, but first responders found Roberge dead on the second floor.

Two people died when Isaias spun off a tornado that struck a North Carolina mobile home park. Another person died in Pennsylvania when their vehicle was overtaken by water and swept downstream. Three others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland, Connecticut and New York City, and a seventh person died in Delaware when a tree branch fell on them, authorities said.

Isaias sustained top winds of up to 65 mph more than 18 hours after coming ashore, but it was down to 45 mph max winds as of late Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters grew concerned Tuesday afternoon after radar showed that some of the more intense rain bands were beginning to rotate, an indication that the storm might produce isolated tornadoes in western Maine and southern New Hampshire, but none was reported in Maine, according to the weather service.

The weather service is investigating reports of a funnel cloud in western New Hampshire. Tornadoes were confirmed by the weather service in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.