Power lines arc Dec. 18 where strong winds and rain toppled trees and forced the closure of Main Street at Johnson Heights in Waterville, near Amy Calder’s home. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“Should I fill the bathtub with water?”

“No,” my husband replied.

Did I detect a tone of mockery in his voice?

“Well, they say when a big storm is coming, you should fill the tub,” I said.

It was wild outside our Waterville house, trees bending to and fro, rain splashing against the windows, wind blowing it sideways.

It was the first day of my vacation, Dec. 18, and I was starting preparations for our annual family Christmas Eve gathering.


Phil was sitting on the sofa watching the mayhem unfold outside as a towering fir tree crashed down across the next street and another gigantic one onto a house, knocking out power to the neighborhood. Little did we know it would remain out for four days.

I spent those days replacing batteries in candles, tiny white lights and other holiday paraphernalia, wrapping presents on a table placed against a window for natural light and performing all chores that could be done without electricity.

Amy Calder’s table is aglow in the darkness when her home was without power during the December storm. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

We were lucky to have wood and a Yotul fireplace insert. It produced enough warmth, though we couldn’t use the blower, to keep us comfortable for the four days. Our living room was warm; other rooms less so, but palatable.

We abstained from opening our refrigerator and freezer, on advice from experts, but by the end of the second day without power, I lugged two large coolers up from the basement, loaded them with food and cold packs and set them out on the back porch.

We needed ice, a commodity that was scarce in Waterville, so I drove to Skowhegan to fetch several bags, as well as batteries and other items difficult to find. Getting there was a challenge.

Passing the Purple Cow restaurant on U.S. Route 201 in Fairfield, I watched emergency crews dealing with a flood between the restaurant and the Kennebec River. Later, approaching the Hinckley Bridge, I saw that U.S. Route 201 north was blocked. I crossed the bridge, where a blockade was set up, preventing motorists from heading north on River Road. I drove toward Canaan on Route 23 which was peppered with large trees that had fallen across it, those trees sawed off in the middle to allow vehicles to pass through.


I hoped to buy gasoline at the Irving station at the intersection with U.S. Route 2 in Canaan but it was closed, a note on the door saying it had had a power surge. I continued west to find the Canaan Superette lined with cars and trucks waiting to get gas. I ducked inside and bought two of their last four “C” batteries for our battery-powered radio.

Several miles away in Skowhegan, Route 2 was closed at the confluence of Wesserunsett Stream and the Kennebec River where water had crossed the road. I detoured up the Dudley Corner Road to Malbons Mills and Dr. Mann roads, exiting onto North Avenue and crossing over to Madison Avenue.

I stopped at my sister’s house which had power, charged my cellphone, borrowed two flashlights, dropped gifts off under her Christmas tree and headed to Hannaford to buy several bags of ice for me and another sister who lives in Waterville. She also was without power (though she has a gas cook stove and invited us to breakfast. Oh, what a hot breakfast!)

Heading back to Waterville from Skowhegan on U.S. Route 201, I couldn’t enter Fairfield because the road was blocked near the entrance to Interstate-95. I hopped on the turnpike and drove south to Waterville.

It was good to be home. Our cats, Thurston and Bitsy, weathered the storm week with us, knowing something was off. We sat in the dimness of the evenings, listening to the radio, reading by flashlight and watching for utility trucks to arrive.

It was a long wait. During the day, I puttered, polished furniture, put final touches on holiday decorations and completed all tasks that were possible sans electricity. Fortunately, on the first day of the outage, I had baked a large lasagna that I removed from the oven just as the power went out, so we had plenty to eat during the four days.


We consumed it cold until the final day, when I ferried two portions to the newspaper office downtown (which finally got power back) and heated them in the microwave.

On Thursday night, just as I was heading out to my office holiday dinner, a miracle arrived. Five huge white utility trucks crawled up our street, appearing for all the world like gigantic white knights. The cavalry emerged from their vehicles, promising we would have a lit-up Christmas after all. Hallelujah.

As I ventured into the night, I thanked those soldiers profusely and drove out of sight.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She is the author of the book, “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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