AUGUSTA – Hurricane Lee, which had prompted statewide alert and preparations all week, reached Maine on Saturday. As predicted, the storm brought with it strong winds causing widespread power outages throughout central Maine and much of the state.

Mike Smith, the director of Somerset County’s Office of Emergency Management, said that there were several widespread outages in the county, prompting officials to seek assistance from neighboring states. The storm’s impact, Smith said, was worse in the southern portion of the county.

Central Maine Power reported at 12:30 p.m. that 4,129 customers in Somerset County were without electricity, including at least 2,215 in Skowhegan. According to Smith, the majority of the outages were the result of downed trees.

“Trees and wires are down, those tend to be the biggest issue,” Smith said. “It (the storm) took a big chunk, I just saw, and it’s mostly the north side of town that’s down.”

Though the Somerset County total had grown to more than 5,500 by 3 p.m., according to the outages report by CMP, lights were coming back on in Skowhegan with only 329 customers still in the dark.

Outages in neighboring Penobscot County affected over 1,000 customers, including 500 in Hermon, according to CMP data.


Cassandra McLaughin and her daughter, Mckenzie, stand outside their home on Middle Road in Skowhegan on Saturday as crews work nearby to restore power. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Across Kennebec County, more than two dozen communities experienced power outages. Litchfield had more than 1,300 outages; however, the outages were not concentrated in one region, thus not warranting an emergency response, according to officials.

Additionally, at 3 p.m. Vassalboro had almost 1,000 homes affected by power outages. While the outages affected much of the town, Vassalboro Fire Chief Walker Thompson praised CMP’s lineworkers, saying that crews have been quick to restore electricity.

“The conditions out there, the wind and everything like that, it’s certainly a dangerous job being a lineworker. I think they’ve been doing a great job,” Thompson said. “It actually impacted my house. We were without power for only an hour, hour and a half. I think that’s pretty good.”

The sentiment was shared by officials across Kennebec and Somerset counties, many of whom said that most outages lasted less than two hours.

Hurricane Lee was classified as Category 1 on Friday afternoon and officials had predicted widespread wind damage, flash floods and power outages. As it has been a wet summer, the saturated soil was also a cause for concern as trees could topple over more easily.

“If the trees are sitting on saturated soil and with leaves, it would be possible to knock some trees,” said Sarah Thunberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.


Josh Kingsbury gets some snacks from the refrigerator for other people Saturday at the impromptu storm shelter at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

By Saturday, Lee had been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone.

In preparation for the storm, officials in Augusta opened a storm shelter at the Augusta Civic Center intended to offer protection for the area’s homeless population from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Heavy rain poured down around noon, accompanied by strong gusts of winds shrieking past trees and parked cars in the lot. At the Civic Center, a room with carpeted floors and dim lighting housed just nine people, including four children who ran around the room, doing handstands against the walls and watching cartoons on phones.

In a corner, a refrigerator sat buzzing, stocked with stacks of sandwiches, juice boxes and salad kits.

Josh Kingsbury, there with a younger brother and two little cousins, said they arrived at the shelter around 9 a.m. after grabbing breakfast at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church.

“If it wasn’t for these churches providing food and shelter, I don’t know what we would do, especially on days like these,” Kingsbury said. “We need warm places.”


Carroll Ayer and Maurice walk in a park in front of The Olde Federal Building on Saturday in downtown Augusta. They didn’t let the wind and rain from post tropical cyclone Lee interrupt their daily routine of several walks a day. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

He noted that a lot of the people in and outside the shelter did not have a place to stay after 8 p.m. The plan was to get dinner at another church after which the group was going to scatter and take cover. Those who had cars were going to sleep in them. Kingsbury’s family planned to stay at a friend’s place, but many others did not have those options.

“There are more of us, but a lot of them did not come here because they didn’t know what they were going to do after,” said Kingsbury. “It’s a blessing that the storm isn’t as bad so far as people said it was going to be.”

Sean Goodwin, the acting director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency, reported around 1:30 p.m. that towns and agencies were adequately weathering the storm.

“The plans we put in place years ago are working well,” said Goodwin. “It is not as bad as we expected but it’s also not over yet. We have not seen any major damages or deaths. There have been power outages and CMP is responding.”

Goodwin added that despite the dulled nature of the storm, the preparations were well warranted.

“There will always be lessons learned no matter how well it went and that’s good because no one got hurt,” said Goodwin. “People who lost power might tell you differently but all in all it has been good. You could look at it as a good dress rehearsal.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.