Boots on the ground: Gov. LePage tours storm damage

Lepage damage tour

BATH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Day 3 with no power for thousands in Maine. Crews from CMP, Emera, along with MEMA and tree companies, have been working around the clock, working to restore power which was knocked out to a record number of people when powerful storms tore through the area early Monday morning.

Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday toured one of the hardest hit areas, Bath and Phippsburg, as CMP workers put new poles up and reconnected lines.

The first stop was CMP's Brunswick headquarters where the governor got the lay of the land. CEO Sara Burns shared a map showing him exactly which towns were still out of power and where crews were concentrating their efforts.

Gov. LePage took a moment to send this message to Mainers:

"We understand your patience is running thin, we understand that everyone needs power. We’re getting it and I’m amazed that a day and a half later we’ve cut it in half."

During a car ride through Bath’s High Street and into Phippsburg, Burns mapped out the steps CMP crews are taking to get 600 nearby homes back online.

"The challenge of recovering on these peninsulas is you have to start at the substations, correct anything that’s wrong and then start moving down the line," she said.

A dozen crewmembers, some in CMP buckets overhead using electric saws to cut limbs, others on the ground, worked feverishly to hoist up stronger, wider poles, replacing several that were snapped in half by the gale force winds.

Thirty-nine-year CMP veteran Kevin Cairns explained the process to the governor: "This is a classic case of a big tree comes down through CMP, connects onto the messenger cables which for phone and cable which are a steel cable, obviously much stronger than aluminum they don’t break, the poles do.”

Not good news for neighbor Steve Fava who lives steps from the winnegance general store. He started his generator Monday for the first time since buying it several years ago.

"We don’t normally lose power here for more than few hours," he explains, despite his proximity to the Kennebec and New Meadows rivers. "Yeah, this is the first time that it’s been off this long."

For those without power, patience is growing thin. Longtime Bath residents Arthur and Mary caught up with LePage as he finished his tour of the damage.

"We live at 788 High St, when will we have power?"

Burns answered him first, pointing at the crews attaching lines to the newer, wider poles. "That’s step one to getting your power back on, so we’re working on it," she says. Arthur laughs it off.

LePage says, in fact, Arthur and Mary and the thousands of elderly patients in Maine are his primary focus. And he adds, it’s where power crews began.

"They go down to the hospitals, the nursing homes, those are the areas they go first, and the larger populations they work through," LePage said. "So I’m very, very concerned, and for those who don’t have power and the elderly need to go to shelters and we need to make sure that they’re taken care of."

The elderly in Bath have been heading to the senior center all week for classes and meals and to get warm. And, while anxious to get their power back, Arthur and Mary marvel at the attitude many are taking.   "So this is not uncommon, and I think that New Englanders just say, OK, this is just life and we keep on going with a positive outlook."

And that’s what LePage is counting on: neighbors helping neighbors and staying focused on the end result.

"I'll tell ya, I’m very impressed,” LePage shared. "You know, if you look at what happened during the [1998] Ice Storm, it took like three weeks to recover. What we’re doing this week, once the winds die down and the weather’s cooperating, they’re gonna get this done in three or four days."

The governor said he understood the frustrations of those who still don’t have power. In fact, he said, "my Boothbay home is in the dark, too."

CMP and Emera say they appreciate everyone’s patience and hope to have the power back on everywhere in Maine by Saturday night.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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