A Central Maine Power lineman works to remove a limb from an icy power line in Augusta on Jan. 8, 1998, in the aftermath of the destructive ice storm. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Kay Brackley was so scared delivering newspapers on treacherous roads the morning of the ice storm in 1998 she both prayed that God would help her make it home safe and vowed to give up her route forever.

She went off the road that night while negotiating a hill while delivering the Morning Sentinel and Lewiston Sun Journal on her route that included Farmington, Chesterville, Mount Vernon and New Sharon. She was pulled back onto the road by a wrecker driver and, despite his advice that she go home, continued delivering her route into Mount Vernon.

She made it home safe that morning, but didn’t give up her route. She delivered papers for nearly two more decades.

“I vowed I’m giving up my paper route; I was scared to death,” the since-retired Strong resident said of delivering papers in the wee hours of the morning in 1998. “I prayed and said I was going to give it up. But God got me home safe.”

Brackley, 79, whose husband, Bob, also delivered newspapers, retired in 2017 after 38 years of delivering. During that time the only occasions when she didn’t deliver to her route was in two big snowstorms.

She remembers, while on her route that morning, being on the steep Chesterville Hill, which was so icy that she was so sure she was going to slide off the road. She pushed her Mitsubishi Montero’s brake pedal so hard “my foot was almost in the radiator. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get off this hill.'”


When she let her foot off the brake she realized she wasn’t actually sliding; she was stationary on top of the hill but was so disoriented by the storm she couldn’t tell. She then continued her route, later going off the road on a different hill. Then continued her route into Mount Vernon where she said the roads were a bit better as sand trucks had been out.

She said she didn’t hear trees crashing in the woods as she drove, but said that might have been because her car was so loud, and she was so focused on praying she’d make it home safe.

Brackley said she doesn’t remember whether they lost power at their home during the storm. But she does remember the fear she felt while out on the roads that morning.

Charlene McGraw, group circulation manager for Masthead Maine, which includes the Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel, Lewiston Sun Journal and Portland Press Herald, who at the time of the ice storm was a district manager overseeing circulation in the Skowhegan area, said the whole territory she covered was a horrible mess.

In the middle of taking care of the needs of newspaper carriers and trying to ensure the papers got delivered, her family lost electricity at their Farmington home. McGraw sent her three kids to stay with their grandparents, and she and her husband slept in their kitchen, near the woodstove to stay warm. She showered at a neighbor’s house and made it to work in Skowhegan every day.

While going to a meeting at the Kennebec Journal’s offices (then on Western Avenue in Augusta) McGraw was listening to a local radio station that had asked people to call in and share their ice storm stories. An elderly man who lived in a mobile home near the Winthrop/Manchester line called in to say he couldn’t get out of his house, had no way to get out, had no local family and was out of milk and most of his food was spoiling because he had no electricity. So she and Jenny Cook, then customer service manager, went to the grocery store and drove out to his home to deliver the items the stranger needed. She said he was very grateful.

McGraw said a lot of newspaper customer routes were delivered to throughout the storm and its wake, but others were not, due to impassable roads. Carriers were asked to deliver if they could, and to call in the morning to let her know what roads couldn’t be delivered to on their routes.

She said most of the customers who didn’t get their papers due to road conditions were understanding, and some even called the paper to warn against sending anyone down their roads to deliver, having their papers held until the danger had passed. She said some customers still wanted their papers, and some wanted their papers from that time period even if they were late, because they planned to save them to document the historic event.

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