News Feature

The Peninsula
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 6, 2023
Mail carrier among local storm heroes
Fire departments work overtime during bomb cyclone

Winter Storm Elliott

A greenhouse on a South Street property in Blue Hill was a casualty of Winter Storm Elliott.

Photo by Maggie White Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Jack Beaudoin and Maggie White

Among the local heroes of the pre-Christmas winter storm “Elliott” was Brooksville mail carrier Tiffany Limeburner. According to the town’s postmaster, Sharon Clifford, Limeburner noticed that a generator was not running at the home of an elderly women to whom she delivers mail. Knowing that the resident lives alone, Limeburner started a chain of communication that resulted in the woman’s generator being back in business within 24 hours.

“It was the mail lady who noticed the generator wasn’t running. She got in touch with the fellow picking up the trash, who got in touch with me,” said Brooksville Fire Chief Matt Dow.

According to Dow, the tank had run out of gas and the woman, who he estimated to be in her mid-eighties, went just a single night without power.

“I called one of my firefighters and he took care of it almost immediately. The temperature was down to 50 something in the house—so cold, but not freezing. Everyone is watching out for everyone in this community. Which is good,” said Dow, himself something of a storm hero. He fielded 30-odd calls about downed trees, hauled firewood to homes with no power and got an estimated eight to 10 hours of sleep over the course of three to four days.

Elliott’s impact

Winter Storm Elliott has been dubbed a “bomb cyclone”—a classification given to a storm when pressure decreases by by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours—and left more than 30,000 Hancock County residents without power beginning on December 23.

According to Versant Power, about 70,000 customers lost power at the peak of the storm. By Christmas Eve, the utility had restored electricity to roughly half that number and, by Christmas Day, only about 19,000 customers remained in the dark. Of that number, 8,092 were in Hancock County. With winds gusting up to 70 mph, peninsula volunteer fire departments were busy fielding calls about downed trees.

Community resource

Matt Dennison, Blue Hill fire chief, estimated that they “were out roughly 20 times, between about 9 in the morning and 3 the next morning” and that most of the calls were due to downed trees, but some had to do with fire alarms being triggered by flickers of power outages. Like Dow, Dennison also reported that he had very little sleep for several days.

Over in Surry, Fire Chief Brian McLellan reported that several downed trees on Newbury Neck Road resulted in understandable frustration from residents needing to get in and out of their homes for holiday travel and errands. Wanting to be a community resource, they opened a “warming center” in The Gathering Place on Ellsworth Road to offer a place for people to warm up, charge their phones and use the internet.

McLellan, who said that the power outages were more impactful and longer than usual, urged safety. “With downed power lines, people should not approach them or touch them. We had a couple of interesting situations where people thought the wires were something they were not. The saying is: never touch the lines that come off the poles,” he said.

Brooklin Fire Chief Samuel Friend said that his department fielded about 10 calls, mostly regarding downed trees and that some private roads were without power for five or six days. Sedgwick Fire Chief David Carter was unavailable to comment.

Possible federal disaster declaration

According to Hancock County Emergency Management Agency director Andrew Sankey, towns had until January 3 to report damage to public property and assets. If the reports exceed $227,000, the county could be included in the state’s request for a federal disaster declaration—which itself requires at least $2.2 million in statewide damage to infrastructure.