Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 9, 2017 and Island Ad-Vantages, November 9, 2017 and The Weekly Packet, November 9, 2017
Area recovering from catastrophic windstorm
by Monique Labbe
Eight days after an October 30 storm pummeled the entire state of Maine, leaving 6,000 customers without power across the Peninsula and Island, just 21 residents were still without power, according to Emera Maine power outage reports.
Central Maine Power repairs to outages in the Blue Hill Peninsula area were wrapped up by midday on Saturday.
At its height, the storm knocked out power to about 500,000 homes and businesses statewide.
But while power was restored to thousands in the area by November 4, Internet and phone connection outages were still being reported through the weekend.
Downtown Stonington, for example, was without Internet and phone lines all of last week, as many businesses, including the town office, had to operate without many of their key programs. Town Manager Kathleen Billings reported that it was difficult to make a decision in terms of how to operate leading up to the November 7 referendum vote, as the staff was unable to manage absentee ballots and other state registration processes.
“We were definitely making contingency plans just in case,” she said. “We were talking about going up to the town garage because they have Fairpoint up there, so we would have been able to run at least the necessities.”
Billings said she and some of the staff were able to do things offsite in the interim while waiting to get back online.
“It was an eye-opening experience for sure,” she said. “But I’m very thankful for all the crews that were down here, we were fortunate that they came to our aid as fast as they did.”
The Internet and phone services were restored over the weekend.
According to Time Warner/Spectrum, the company that provides Internet and phone services to much of downtown Stonington, the node connecting downtown Stonington and a total of 600 customers to phone and Internet service had only 10 percent of those customers online as of November 3. Internet and phone services were back on to the majority of those affected by the weekend.
Nodes are run by electric power, and if a power line is down, the node also is. According to one Spectrum representative, direct damage to the node, or broken lines leading to it, can cause delays in restoring services.
“We do have a process in place to let [Time Warner/Spectrum] know if a pole [servicing a node] is affected,” said Emera Maine media relations representative Bob Potts. “But in a widespread outage, our primary focus is just to get the lights on.”
Similarly, the Blue Hill Town Hall had its own Internet issues, operating until Monday without its main Internet servers, though town clerk Etta Perkins noted that aside from that access, the office operated business as usual.
“We just got our Internet back today,” said Perkins on Monday. “Other than that we’re pretty boring, we have a generator so we are up and running at all times.”
A generator is what saved operation from coming to a halt at Parker Ridge in Blue Hill, as the elderly-populated facility was out of power for roughly 24 hours.
“We were fortunate that power was restored by Tuesday [one day after that storm],” said Director of Marketing Marilyn Phinney. “Our campus has a large propane generator that provides electricity for essential services.”
Additionally, those outlets provide continuation of use for any of the residents needing oxygen supplies.
Crews have been assessing and cleaning up damages brought forth by the storm, with cleanup of debris an ongoing process, according to a Maine Emergency Management Agency press release.
“We know it’s not over, but things have improved vastly since Monday and everyone is doing all they can to get life back to normal across Maine,” said acting MEMA Director Peter Rogers.