Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 2, 2014
Communities of Castine and Penobscot rally as ice storm makes for a (mostly) dark Christmas
Crews clean up fallen tree limbs that spanned Castine Road after the December ice storm. The state is currently seeking reports of damage from the storm from homeowners and businesses. This is not an application for assistance, but rather to allow the state to estimate the amount of damage caused across the state. To report damage, call 211 toll-free.
by Anne Berleant and Faith DeAmbrose
“Got power?” That was the question that was most asked and answered in the aftermath of an ice storm that struck the area on December 21 and 22.
“We got hit hard in Penobscot. Castine did too,” said Penobscot Fire Chief Dennis Robertson.
Both towns went dark on December 23 and much of Christmas Eve day, with light provided by candles for some, and generators for others.
The soundtrack was tree branches breaking and falling from their inch-thick coating of ice onto roads, driveways and other trees. The feeling was one of community, as neighbors checked on neighbors and town volunteers checked residences, offering help from gasoline for a generator to connecting them with a heated room for the night.
Castine First Responders checked each residence, offering assistance as needed. Maine Maritime Academy had one floor of heated rooms powered by generator available for community residents.
Penobscot Fire Department volunteers moved people out of their houses, to the nursing home or to a Bucksport motel and, like Castine volunteers, cut branches that lay across roads.
“It’s been a busy few days,” said Robertson. “We’ve been out almost steady since Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Robertson said he logged 60 calls since December 1, the day he starts counting for the year, which is about what the department usually receives all year. “And I know we didn’t count them all.”
“I was pleased that everybody on the department did get to enjoy Christmas at some point,” he added.
On Christmas Eve lights flickered on and stayed on in the Castine village; the following day most off-neck residents and many Penobscot houses had power.
At the peak of outages, all 829 CMP customers in Penobscot and all 726 in Castine were without power. CMP contracted with utility and private companies from Maine, Canada, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey and more to cut branches and restore lines. As of December 30, two Penobscot residences were still without electricity, according to Central Maine Power.
The loss of power made for a different kind of Christmas. In Penobscot, on Pine Lane, Elaine and Jim Climo fed a tableful of guests, powered by two generators and buckets of snow melted on the stove top.
The sight of 10 trucks bearing Massachusetts plates greeted Sonia Turanski on Christmas day outside her house on The New Road. Her family tradition of filling stockings with candy took a new twist, as they walked up and down the road giving candy to the linemen.
This was the first Maine winter for new residents Darcy and Richard Osheim who moved from California so Richard could take a job at Maine Maritime Academy. Darcy, who is 39 weeks pregnant, worked to balance the beauty of the storm with the fact she “didn’t really know what to do.” Coming from the Bay Area of California, Osheim says she is not used to snow and that coupled with the fact she was so close to having a baby, she said her husband did all he could to make sure the driveway and walkways were plowed in case they needed to make a quick exit.
In addition, the couple celebrated Richard’s birthday in the dark. “We had water, but no lantern, no candles…so we were just sitting around with a jug of water and a flashlight until we decided to go to bed,” she said. Darcy had made a cake for Richard, but was unable to bake it until the power came back on.
Christmas Eve in downtown Castine showed a welcome array of decorated and lit holiday trees along Main Street and on the town common. The power was restored on-neck in time for churches to hold scheduled services.
Neighbors helped neighbors, whether lending a shower or shoveling a walkway. “Thank you to the elves who shoveled our walkway,” posted Christine Spratt of Castine Road on Facebook. “Who are you?”
Click here to view a slideshow of the ice storm.