Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 2, 2014
Three-day storm brings ice, snow and power outages to The Peninsula for Christmas
by Faith DeAmbrose
With temperatures hovering at the freezing point (give or take a degree) for three days straight—coupled with a slow-moving, warm, wet storm—it laid a perfect foundation for an ice storm that left most of the area without power, many through the Christmas holiday and beyond.
The storm began late Saturday evening, December 21 (the first official day of winter) and continued through Monday, December 23. But for many the storm was only the beginning of a many-day journey to get their power back. Trees and power lines throughout the peninsula were covered with close to an inch of ice and each breeze moved the trees producing crackling sounds, followed frequently by a snap and or pop.
At the height of the power loss, more than 15,000 Bangor Hydro meters in Hancock County were in the dark, as well as hundreds of Central Maine Power meters in Penobscot and Castine. As of Thursday, December 26, Hydro reported 6,800 meters without power and CMP had 295 in Penobscot and nine in Castine. By Monday, December 30, all of Castine and Penobscot were back online and there were roughly 1,000 meters without power, many on the Blue Hill Peninsula. On Tuesday, as of press time, there were 162 Hydro meters without power.
Another storm that came to the area overnight Sunday, December 30, brought more ice and snow and caused a backward slide for the Hydro crews who just hours earlier had gotten the number of outages in Hancock County down to 267.
Ice Storm 2013 Slideshow
A three day ice storm wrought havoc over the holidays in Castine and across the Blue Hill Peninsula. The storm was felt on Deer Isle as well, though to a lesser extent. The storm began late Saturday evening, December 21 (the first official day of winter) and continued through Monday, December 23. Power outages continued for several days for many residents. This slideshow features photographs by Penobscot Bay Press staff members Faith DeAmbrose, Anne Berleant and Jessica Brophy. Also featured are photos of line crew trucks at TradeWinds market by Lloyd Roberts, an “Angel in the Sky” in Sedgwick by Evangeline Wollmar, Castine Road scenic by Darcy Osheim and a photo of a tree down on Dunbar Road by Tim Henderson.
If you don’t see the slideshow, click here.
Local response, commerce and making do
Local fire departments across the Peninsula were out along with snowplows during the storm, said Blue Hill Fire Chief Denny Robertson, noting that in Blue Hill numerous trees had to be cleared from the roadways just to make the roads plowable. The Turkey Farm, Grindleville, Stover and Jay Carter roads were hardest hit, said Robertson, requiring department members to be out for some time assisting with tree trimming and tending to downed power lines.
Line crews and tree trimmers came from all the New England States and as far away as Connecticut and New Jersey to help restoration efforts. On Friday, December 27, Hydro reported that those crews were joined by utility workers from Nova Scotia.
During the storm, people took to social media, sharing images and inviting those without power over for a hot meal or shower. While traditional Internet and phone lines were down beside the power lines, cell service—while spotty at times—was not interrupted and the Internet could be accessed through those devices.
On Thursday, December 26, warming shelters were established at the Blue Hill Town Hall and Brooklin and Brooksville fire stations to aid those who had been without power for upward of four days. Residents of Sedgwick’s Ridge Road and Blue Hill’s Turkey Farm Road were without power until late Friday, December 27, while parts of
Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville and Sedgwick were without power into Monday, December 30.
The Brooksville Fire Department responded to 20 calls related to the storm, said Fire Chief Matt Dow, and had a fire- fighter at the station around the clock December 18-24 so residents could take showers and have warm meals. Line crews also took advantage of the warming shelter, said Dow, adding that the department members also went around town with generators to help residents warm their homes.
Video shot on Sunday, December 22 and Wednesday, December 25 of the 2013 Ice Storm and its aftermath in Blue Hill. Video by Faith DeAmbrose
While many in the community made the best of the circumstances, a Bangor Hydro customer in Surry frustrated with the speed of restoration made a threatening call to Hydro’s customer service center, resulting in crews being pulled from that area and further slowing down restoration efforts. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office was sent to Surry at 10:45 p.m. on December 26 to speak with the caller, but no charges were filed. While there were rumors widely circulating in the community and amplified by social media that the line crews were given police escorts after the incident, this was not true, said Hydro Communication Specialist Bob Potts. “There was no police escort but we did receive tremendous support from local authorities to be on stand-by if needed. There were no further issues and the power was restored when the crews returned.”
Being a retailer during the ice storm and prolonged power outage was “challenging,” said Fairwinds Florist owner Cullen Schneider, but in true Maine spirit, both employees and customers braved the elements—and the dark—to finish holiday shopping. Flower arrangements and centerpieces were constructed by the glow of oil lamps and candlelight, and more than 60 orders, which had already been “contracted with our customers,” said Schneider, had to be delivered by Christmas despite the road conditions. Schneider said that each transaction done at her Blue Hill shop on the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas required a little more paperwork and record keeping so items could be later rung into the register and/or credit card machine.
Prep work for Arborvine restaurant’s capacity Christmas Eve dinner was done by headlamp. With the power restored at about 12:30 p.m. that day, it came just in time to clean up and serve dinner.
David Caplan at The Meadow of Blue Hill said that while the power was out for the lead up to Christmas, his retail sales were up from last year and customers didn’t seem as if the adverse conditions were affecting their holiday cheer. While the weather may have kept some from venturing out to shop, those who did, said Caplan, had a good experience.
The take away for Caplan, he said, is the purchase of a new generator to ensure commerce is not hindered in the future.