Snow slows Maine power work; Mich. effort ongoing
GARDINER, Maine — Snow fell Thursday in places still hustling to get power back on after a weekend ice storm that turned out the lights from Michigan to Maine and into Canada.
Eastern Maine and parts of the state's interior that have been without electricity since Sunday anticipated 3 to 7 inches of snow by the time the latest system pushed off the coast Thursday night. Utilities worried that the additional weight on branches and transmission lines could cause setbacks in the around-the-clock efforts to restore power.
"We don't think it's going to help us much, that's for sure," said Susan Faloon, a spokeswoman for Bangor Hydro Electric in Maine. "There was some concern expressed over the last couple of days about that storm coming because obviously we still have lot of stuff weighing down trees and lines.
"The system is pretty compromised out there," she said. "We expect we will have more outages."
In Michigan, where about half a million homes and businesses lost power at the peak of the weekend storm, an inch or so of snow was expected. Utilities there reported 101,000 customers without power Thursday morning and said it could be Saturday before all electricity is restored.
Tony Carone lost power in his Lapeer, Mich., home Sunday morning. The 52-year-old lineman for Detroit-based DTE knew there were long hours ahead.
"I was one of the casualties," he said while taking a break from restoration work Thursday morning.
Maine reported more than 21,000 customers still out, down from a high of more than 106,000. There were more than 101,000 without power in three Canadian provinces — Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick — including 54,000 in the city of Toronto.
Day five without power was met by tired but mostly stoic Mainers.
Bob and Katrina Johnson spent Christmas Eve at a family member's house that had no electricity. Christmas morning was at their powerless house in Pittston and that afternoon meant a trip to Katrina's mother's house in Gardiner, which also had no electricity. Nonetheless, they exchanged presents and celebrated.
By Thursday, the couple had grown weary from hauling a portable generator back and forth between their home and her mother's home to keep a freezer-load of moose meat from spoiling and run the heat long enough to keep pipes from freezing and bursting.
"You have to go with the flow and adapt, and do the best you can," Katrina Johnson said. "You learn how to deal with it. Do you like it? No, but you deal with it."
In hard-hit Kennebec County, where the state capital of Augusta is located, glistening trees sagged under the weight of ice. Many tree limbs had snapped, littering yards.
On one road, workers in four bucket trucks from Massachusetts' N-Star utility company worked patiently to get a power line lifted back into place as snow fell sporadically. Paul Graham, the crew supervisor from Waltham, Mass., and a veteran of the devastating ice storm of 1998, said it could've been worse, even as his team worked its third consecutive 18-hour shift.
"Honestly, you got lucky," he said. "If it was a little more ice, poles would have been broken. Things would be on the ground. That's my take. If there was another quarter of an inch or a half-inch of ice, people would've been out for a long, long, long time.
"But I'm sure no one is thinking they're lucky, right?"
A state ferry was commandeered to transport utility crews to restore power to the 600 or so residents on the island of Islesboro, where actor John Travolta has a home.
Most utility customers in Maine were expected to have their lights on by week's end, but there were some pockets where damage was so severe it could take until Wednesday.
Bangor Hydro Electric advised residents that it will be the end of the day Friday before its more than 11,000 customers are back online. The number has fluctuated as some get power back while others lose it.
Central Maine Power, with more than 16,000 customers still without power early Thursday, hoped to get electricity back for most by the end of the day but acknowledged that some will still be without electricity Friday. More than 100,000 were without power at the storm's peak.
In the snow country of New York's Tug Hill Plateau, east of Lake Ontario, 11 to 17 inches of wind-whipped lake effect snow was expected to fall by the end of the day Friday. The ice storm knocked out electricity for about 50,000 customers in northern New York; all but about 150 had power back by Thursday.
Elsewhere, the snow shut westbound lanes on a portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike after a pileup involving 35 vehicles. Ten people were taken to hospital with injuries from the crash.
Authorities blame last weekend's storm for 27 deaths; 17 in the U.S. and 10 in Canada, including five who apparently died from carbon monoxide poisoning.