Northeast struggling to recover from powerful storm
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Hundreds of out-of-state reinforcements bolstered utility crews struggling to restore power throughout New England on Tuesday, a day after a powerful storm blew down trees and postponed Halloween activities in many communities.
The storm, packing gusts that topped 80 mph (129 kph), left nearly 1.5 million homes and business across the region in the dark at the peak on Monday. More than 600,000 utility customers remained without power Tuesday.
The storm caused more power outages in Maine than an infamous 1998 ice storm, which left some people in the dark for two weeks.
The state’s two major utilities said favorable weather and extra crews will allow them to complete the task of restoring power this weekend.
“We’re a resilient state, and we’re used to severe storms,” Peter Rogers, acting director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, told reporters in Augusta. “That doesn’t make them any less devastating.”
Miraculously, no serious injuries were reported.
The storm packed winds gusting to 82 mph (132 kph) on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 78 mph (125 kph) at the Isle of Shoals, New Hampshire, and 69 mph (111 kph) in Portland, Maine.
Coast Guard officials were assessing damage from Maine to Rhode Island on Tuesday. Crews identified more than 50 vessels torn from their moorings. Many of the vessels were unmanned and adrift while others were washed up on shore.
Some cities and towns across New England postponed trick-or-treating from Halloween night, Tuesday, to as late as Sunday due to concerns about pitch-black streets, downed power lines and debris.
In Harpswell, Maine, Samantha Morrell dealt with a tearful 8-year-old daughter after Halloween events were canceled in Harpswell and Topsham, where she has family. Neighboring Brunswick also was discouraging trick-or-treating.
“She was hysterical,” Morrell said of her young zombie cheerleader. “She said, ‘They can’t cancel Halloween!’”
In Bedford, New Hampshire, 11-year-old Maddie LaCroix and her girlfriends were dressing up as Patriots football players while the boys were dressing as cheerleaders. They were disappointed to have to wait until Sunday.
In the town Campton, New Hampshire, some families who live near two rivers and were evacuated as a precaution returned home after water levels receded, but they are still without power.
Fire Chief Daniel Defosses said about a third of the town has power now, as do parts of neighboring towns. A number of roads are still closed with downed trees and power lines, or are washed out.
Trick-or-treating was postponed until Friday.
In Rhode Island, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo came up with a solution. She bought hundreds of pieces of candy and said that her home has power, so trick-or-treating kids can “come to the governor’s street.”
The storm caused problems across all of New England: A house was swept away by raging waters in New Hampshire, sailboats crashed onto a beach in Massachusetts and an empty construction truck was blown off a bridge.
In Massachusetts, a sewage treatment plant in North Andover lost power during the storm and spilled 8 million gallons of untreated waste into the Merrimack River, North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor said.
Because of the power outage, a pump failed to move waste into the treatment plant, allowing the waste to back up and flow in the river, he said.
There was no immediate threat to residents, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was looking into the matter, he said.
In Maine, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, called for an investigation after the state’s only Veterans Administration hospital outside Augusta asked for emergency power during the storm.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency had National Guard soldiers deliver a large backup generator on Monday.
The director of the Togus VA said the facility never lost backup power and that the request for help was made as a precaution.
In Vermont, dairy farmers who lost electricity in a wind storm that caused widespread outages across New England were relying on generators to power milking equipment to milk cows and to keep the milk cool. Vermont is the largest dairy producing state in New England, with about 800 dairy farms.
The scope of the damage in Maine made comparisons to the ice storm inevitable. That storm wrecked the power delivery system in eastern Canada and New England, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage.
Roger Pomerleau remembers the 1998 storm well. He said the cold temperatures made that storm harder on a lot of people, but this storm is the one that knocked out his power, which remained out Tuesday.
“The temperature is in our favor right now. Those were cold temperatures back then,” he said. “Freezing temperatures. Sump pumps weren’t working, cellars were filling up with water. Very different now.”
The weather this week is seasonable, with high temperatures in the 50s and 60s, though the low Wednesday morning was predicted to approach freezing.
Associated Press writers Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; Marina Villeneuve in Augusta, Maine; Kathy McCormack and Mike Casey in Concord, New Hampshire; Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island; and Mark Pratt in Boston contributed to this story.