Central Maine Power Co. moved quickly to restore electricity to most of its customers Tuesday, but the company’s website once again left many of them in the dark about when they could expect to have their power restored following Monday’s rain and windstorm.

The utility company had restored power to more than 100,000 customers who lost power during the storm, which dumped up to 4 inches of rain in some locations and produced wind gusts that reached 70 mph in Cape Elizabeth.

The powerful storm created havoc in Portland’s West End neighborhood Monday night when a live electrical line fell on a building used to house families of seriously ill children staying at Maine Medical Center. No injuries were reported, but the 7,200-volt line melted sections of a sidewalk on Brackett Street and lit up the city’s sky.

At the outage’s peak, around 3 a.m. Tuesday, a total of 91,137 Central Maine Power customers were without power. During the course of the storm, which didn’t end until Tuesday afternoon, about 130,000 CMP customers were affected by some type of outage, CMP said.

By Tuesday morning, thousands of homes and businesses had lost power and those who were able to access CMP’s outage website during the morning and afternoon consistently saw the term “assessing” under the column of estimated restoration time. In November 2017, after a strong wind and rain storm hammered the state, the company had technical problems with the website, which estimates when power will be restored. A similar issue regarding outage restoration times arose last October following another strong storm.

CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett, in a telephone interview Tuesday evening, explained that the company’s outage reporting system was operating as expected on Tuesday. CMP says the term “assessing” may appear on a street outage list because CMP has not completed its investigation of repairs that need to be made.

“This has nothing to do with the reporting system,” Hartnett said. “It has to do with when people are putting information into the system.”

In some cases, the crews going out to make assessments about a power outage also complete repairs. In those situations, repairs are done immediately and the crew moves on to the next job. If a repair can not be made right away, each line crew is responsible for eventually reporting to their supervisor, who enters the estimated restoration time into CMP’s outage reporting system. When that reporting occurs, can vary.

“Sometimes, it is more efficient to make the repairs while on scene rather than waiting to call it in,” Hartnett explained. “Certainly, the (outage reporting) website is something we pay close attention to. But we have to make sure that the restoration times are accurate.”

By 9:30 p.m., CMP had restored power to thousands of customers, leaving just over 11,000 customers without electricity during the late evening and early morning hours.

More than 370 line crews and 160 tree crews were deployed across the state Tuesday by CMP. Most of the outages occurred when tree limbs fell onto wires and utility poles. In addition to in-state crews and contractors, CMP secured assistance from 245 crews in Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont and Canada.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, CMP said that because of the damage the storm caused to its power transmission system, customers in Brunswick, Harpswell, Belgrade and Litchfield will likely remain without power until Wednesday. Certain towns in Lincoln and Waldo counties also will have to wait another day before power can be restored. CMP did not identify the affected towns in Lincoln and Waldo counties. It is possible that it could take even longer than Wednesday to restore power to remote homes and camps.

“We understand that customers need power to work and attend classes from their homes and we will continue to work around the clock to restore power as quickly as we can,” said Kerri Therriault, director of electric operations for CMP. “We will shift resources to those areas that need more support as they finish up in other places.”

Versant Power, which serves electrical customers in northern and Downeast Maine, issued a statement late Tuesday evening that said about 3,300 customers remain without power. Restoration crews will work through the night, but customers who are still without service at 10 p.m. should expect to be without power overnight.

Monday’s storm dropped anywhere from 1-4 inches of rain on the state with the totals varying widely depending on where a person lived. Portland reported 2 inches of rain, Cumberland Center 3 inches, Scarborough 2.17 inches, Augusta 3.37 inches, Kennebunk 2.92 inches, and Topsham 1.35 inches, according to the National Weather Service Office in Gray.

Wind gusts also varied widely, the weather service said. Cape Elizabeth experienced the highest gust of 70 mph, South Portland 65 mph, the Portland Jetport 53 mph, Augusta 55 mph, Rockland, 47 mph,  Belfast 52 mph, and the town of York reported a gust of 53 mph.

“It was a very potent low pressure system that packed a real good surge of moisture,” meteorologist William Watson said of the storm.

Watson said Wednesday’s weather should be much milder with high temperatures reaching 45 degrees. Wednesday and Thursday will be sunny.

The state’s next chance for rain or snow will occur Saturday evening into Sunday, but he said it is too early to forecast how severe that storm might be.

Though no serious injuries were reported as a result of Monday’s storm, it did cause damage in Portland. Portland’s Deputy Fire Chief Chad Johnston said high winds and rain caused a 7,200-volt power line to come down at 9:50 p.m. on Brackett Street, in the city’s West End.

The line arced and caught fire, creating an electrical display that could be seen across the city. The line landed on the Ronald McDonald House and on a sidewalk on Brackett Street, causing damage. About 12 people from six families in the Ronald McDonald House were evacuated, but no injuries were reported. The Ronald McDonald House provides rooms for families of seriously ill children staying at nearby Maine Medical Center.

Robin Chibroski, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House, said the families were taken to Maine Medical Center because their children were already there. The Clarion Hotel has offered to house the families for the next two nights while the house is cleaned.

Chibroski said the smoke and soot damage from the fire was contained to the dining area, kitchen and lobby areas. A cleaning company was on site Tuesday do clean up and families will be able to return by Thursday, she said.

 


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