Greater Portland Communities Can 'Expect It Will Be A Few Days Before Power Is Restored'

Oct 18, 2019

The lights are back on for more than half of the Maine residents and businesses that lost power after Thursday morning's Nor'easter.

As of 6 p.m. roughly 55,094 customers in Central Maine Power's (CMP) territory, and 4,158 in Emera Maine's were without electricity. But many can expect to go more days without service.

CMP's CEO Doug Herling says that in contrast to other mass outages, Cumberland and Sagadahoc County's densely populated coastal communities suffered some of the most severe damage, and they are proving the most challenging to restore. Greater Portland communities, including Cape Elizabeth and South Portland, he says, were faring the worst.

"That is very much unusual for us. Portland seems to be an area that we really have big issues with, so I'd say our hot spots are right around that area right now,” Herling says. “So if you're in those areas you can expect it will be a few days before power is restored."

Farther up the coast Bristol and South Bristol remained mostly without power this afternoon. Harpswell was about half-restored. Back on Casco Bay, Falmouth was still mostly lacking power, and Cape Elizabeth was slowly returning from a near 100 percent blackout.

"It was a combination of a multiple number of factors," says Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Matthew Sturgis.

Sturgis says the chief problem was a trunk line that links Cape Elizabeth to Scarborough.

"That's a pretty major supply center for the town,” says Sturgis. “So we had that as culprit A, and then there were multiple trees that had damage or tested the circuits as well."

He also praised his community's patience — particularly drivers' courtesy at intersections where traffic lights were dark.

And Sturgis struck an optimistic note about restoration.

"We have a minimum of 15 different trucks that have been deployed, so from what I understand now, our recycling center is up to speed,” he says. “So we're able to take people's household waste. But we have some major conduits that are starting to come on line fairly quickly, so we're looking forward to that."

And as with many municipal officials interviewed, Sturgis says that in contrast to the 2017 wind storm, CMP was in constant contact with emergency management officials, working first to clear roads for emergency access and safety, with crews returning later to work on service restoration.

Jim Wilson is South Portland's fire chief.

"From the public perspective that might look kind of counter-intuitive, but for public safety it's kind of the way we want things done," says Wilson.

At his morning press conference in Alfred, CMP CEO Doug Herling fielded several questions about whether the company's tree-trimming program was sufficiently up-to-speed, which he says it is. Around the same time, CMP, the state's Public Advocate and CMP customers in Jackman filed an agreement that CMP would invest up to $1 million to expand tree-trimming in that area and another $6.6 million for other system "betterments" aimed at reducing outages. The Public Utilities Commission will consider whether to accept that agreement next week.