Metro

After fierce storm, more than half a million customers around New England still in the dark

A woman walked down a street blocked by a storm-toppled tree in Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
A woman walked down a street blocked by a storm-toppled tree in Maine.

YORK, Maine — Kenny Bea thought the roof might fly off his home during the worst of the storm that tore through here early Monday. The roof held, but a downed tree cut power to the neighborhood, and Bea was reduced to cooking on a backyard grill.

“I thought I was back by Logan Airport,” said Bea, a retired union carpenter who recalled the roar of the wind that caused the largest power outage in Maine’s history.

Part of his street remained closed to traffic Tuesday, as municipal workers and utility crews continued to remove fallen tree limbs and assess the damage to power lines.

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About 48 hours after the storm, some 257,000 of Maine’s power customers remained in the dark Tuesday, joining 71,000 customers in Massachusetts and 84,000 in New Hampshire.

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The fierce storm late Sunday and early Monday ripped through much of New England, but Maine bore its brunt. At one point, extensive damage to trees and utility lines left nearly two-thirds of the state without power, a figure that surpassed the devastating Ice Storm of 1998 and prompted Governor Paul LePage to declare a state of emergency.

“These winds were worse than we’d see from a tropical storm,” said Gail Rice, a spokeswoman for Central Maine Power, the state’s largest utility.

At the storm’s peak, nearly 500,000 Maine homes and businesses had lost power.

In York County, which borders New Hampshire, more than 50,000 customers of Central Maine Power were still without power Tuesday.

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“I’m thinking of the people in Florida and the people in Texas” who have been devastated by hurricanes this year,” said Bea, who had just finished mowing his lawn on a beautiful fall afternoon. “I’m good. All I need is some power.”

Across the street in this small coastal town, Julie Young said she and her husband have now decided to use this Christmas for “survival” gifts. They have been planning to buy a generator for years, she said, and are regretting their procrastination.

As the couple wait for power to return, they planned to light candles, walk around the house with flashlights, and play board games until they go to bed at 9 p.m.

“It is what it is,” Young said. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Sergeant Steve Spofford of the York Police Department said the winds were the most intense he could remember, cutting power in wide pockets across town. No injuries were reported, but the roads to York Harbor were temporarily closed by fallen debris.

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Schools reopened Tuesday, and trick-or-treaters were scheduled to hit the streets after classes, one day later than planned.

Throughout the region, utility officials warned that restoring power could take days given the scope of the damage. Initial efforts will focus on repairing transmission lines that will affect the largest number of customers.

“We have projected we will restore power to the vast majority of customers by Saturday evening,” said Rice, of Central Maine Power. Some of the utility’s more remote customers might have a longer wait.

The power outages might have been exacerbated by an unseasonably warm autumn, which has kept leaves on the trees longer than usual, utility officials said. The heavy foliage could have caused more trees and limbs to collapse onto power lines, they said.

In Portland, downed trees caused several fires Monday, said Jessica Grondin, a spokeswoman for the city. School officials Tuesday canceled classes at five schools without power.

Grondin said city officials were working with the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency to determine whether it would be necessary to open a shelter for residents, as temperatures were expected to drop to the freezing mark Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Grondin’s own family spent Monday night in a hotel, she said. On Tuesday, her daughter’s school was among those closed for a second day because it lacked electricity — using up another “snow day” well before the start of winter. “You’re talking about burning two days already, in October,” she said.

The storm’s destruction hampered emergency crews in at least one town. Trees felled in Boxford slowed the response to a four-alarm fire Tuesday night that engulfed a single-family home on Kelsey Road, near Route 97, the town administrator said.

At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, administrators called for only library staff and essential personnel to report to work and said professors could teach at their discretion. The library and dining halls remained open, but academic buildings were without power or Internet access. At the University of Maine Orono, classes were canceled.

In New Hampshire, many Eversource customers were still without electricity Tuesday afternoon, and about 25,000 households served by the New Hampshire Energy Cooperative remained dark.

The Planet Fitness chain announced that all of its 16 New Hampshire facilities would be open for free to anyone in that state needing to use its showers, electrical outlets, and fitness equipment from Tuesday through Sunday.

Back in Massachusetts, the continued power outage led Andover town officials to activate emergency management protocols, postponing trick-or-treating, keeping schools and town offices shuttered for a second day, and opening the Memorial Hall Library and Cormier Youth Center to serve as charging stations for residents’ mobile devices.

Schools also were closed in Lawrence, although trick-or-treating was set to go on as planned from 5 to 7 p.m., according to city officials.

In Lowell, public schools were closed “due to safety issues related to downed power lines and obstructed roadways,” according to a Facebook posting from the School Department, and trick-or-treating was postponed until Friday.

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie @globe.com. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox @globe.com.