With hundreds of thousands of customers without power, Maine's utilities are scrambling to restore service. But Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice says it could take several days before all of its customers get the lights back on. Rice spoke with Maine Public's Susan Sharon.
SHARON: How bad is it out there?
RICE: It's pretty bad. The winds that came through overnight Sunday into Monday have disrupted power to more than 400,000 customers. That's well over half of our customer base in central and southern Maine. We have all available resources out there working right now. Our main focus today, Monday, is making downed lines safe. We need to make sure those lines don't pose a danger to first responders or the general public or to our own employees. So, we have crews out there working on de-energizing those lines.
We will be out there 24/7, around the clock until we complete restoration. But, at this point, we don't have an estimate for when restoration will be completed. Damage is widespread throughout our service area and we do know that this is going to be a recovery effort that takes several days.
SHARON: How many crews do you have out there, Gail?
RICE: We've got about 85 or 90 of our own CMP line crews. We have another 100 contract line crews. Some of them are from within Maine, some are from out of state. We also have a number of pole siting crews, along with hundreds of support personnel. We are seeking more line crews through the North Atlantic Mutual Assistance Group. We're in good company with that request, as there are more than 1.3 million outages throughout the northeast. So, this storm did a lot of damage in a lot of places and it's going to take some time for us to put the system back together.
SHARON: How does it compare to the 1998 ice storm?
RICE: Numbers-wise, this number exceeding 400,000 is greater than what we lost in 1998. It's kind of hard to compare those two because back in 1998 we did not have the technology that we have today but we're pretty confident in the outage estimate that we have right now. So, strictly from a numbers point of view, it is worse. The good news is that the storm has moved through quickly. We'll have better conditions for restoration (than in winter of '98) so I think it should go much quicker than what happened in '98.
SHARON: And you said the priority right now is to de-energize downed lines. Are you still asking people to stay away from those?
RICE: We always urge people to stay away from any downed lines and any debris, tree branches, that may be tangled up in downed lines. Even if we've been by to de-energize them, any downed lines should be considered dangerous and people should stay away. We also encourage people if they see any crews along the roadside...to please proceed with caution, go slowly, give them plenty of room to do their jobs. And we appreciate peoples' patience and understanding as we work through this.