Sep. 17—A day after Tropical Storm Lee passed through the Gulf of Maine, toppling trees and knocking out electricity for thousands of Mainers, the power was back on by Sunday night for most Central Maine Power and Versant customers.
"Crews worked through the night. We are working to have the vast majority of outages restored today," CMP spokesman Jon Breed said Sunday. The company was focused on restoring power to businesses, schools and other key locations so they could open Monday "and get back to daily life," he added. "We understand the needs of our customers."
Statewide, there were fewer than 500 electricity customers without power late Sunday night: 195 reported by CMP and 304 reported by Versant Power. CMP said 137,215 customers lost power at some point during the storm, with 61,308 outages at the storm's peak Saturday. Versant said its power outages peaked Saturday afternoon at 36,000.
On Sunday, Gov. Janet Mills suspended the state of emergency declared as the storm approached.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency and other state agencies were working with local safety officials on cleanup and recovery, while CMP and Versant continued to clean up fallen trees and limbs and restore power to customers, Mills said in a statement. The state will continue to have access to federal resources as needed under the President's Emergency Disaster Declaration, Mills added.
The storm wasn't as bad as expected in southern Maine, but strong winds knocked out power to tens of thousands and took down trees in many areas. The Down East region was closer to the storm's path and saw more damage.
Wind gusts peaked Saturday at 44 mph at the Portland International Jetport, National Weather Service meteorologist Jerry Combs said. Winds gusted to 52 mph at the Augusta Regional Airport and 48 mph at several other locations in Cumberland County, including Gray and Brunswick.
The strongest wind gust over land in Maine was recorded in Waldo County at 59 mph, Combs said.
Strong winds continued through the daylight hours Saturday, but then began dropping off.
By 7 p.m. Saturday, wind gusts were still hitting 40 mph at the jetport. "It started dying off after that," Combs said. By 11 p.m., gusts were just 25 mph, he said, and "as we pulled away at midnight, it just shut off."
About 500 CMP line crews were working to restore power throughout Saturday, but at times, they were unable to work in bucket trucks because of high winds, said Breed, the CMP spokesman.
When that happened, "their work didn't stop," he said. "They worked with emergency management agencies to help clear blocked roads. We also worked to make sure that downed power lines were (turned off) and returned when the winds decreased."
One man died Saturday in Searsport when his vehicle was struck by a falling tree. The 51-year-old man's identity was set to be released Monday, according to the Waldo County Sheriff's Office.
In Aroostook County, a driver from Ohio and his passengers narrowly escaped serious injury Saturday when a tree slammed through the front windshield of the van he was driving.
The Maine State Police reported that John Yoder, 23, was driving a 2017 Ford Transit van south on Route 11 in Moro Plantation when he saw a large tree crashing into the road.
Yoder attempted to stop but was unable to avoid the tree, which smashed through the windshield, barely missing Yoder and his passenger. The top of the tree broke off inside the van.
Yoder sustained only minor cuts, and the five other passengers in the van were not injured.
Safety officials cautioned that despite blue skies and little wind Sunday, there could still be some downed trees on the roads and strong rip currents along the coast.
In southern Maine, coastal roads closed during the storm reopened Sunday. Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth and Fogg Road in Scarborough were both reopened after being blocked by fallen trees Saturday, according to police.
On Maine Apple Sunday, Limerick orchard farmer Aaron Libby of Libby & Son U Pick was breathing a sigh of relief that the storm wasn't as bad as feared.
Apple growers had been concerned that the storm might strip apples from trees or even topple fruit trees given how moist the ground has been.
"It was fingers crossed and hold your breath," Libby said. "We're very fortunate. Thankfully, the apples stuck on. Some trees leaned," but overall, the crop weathered the storm, he said.
Margie Hansel of Hansel's Orchards in North Yarmouth reported said she was also relieved. She picked apples from smaller trees before Lee hit: "We've got one Honeycrisp tree. I picked 25 pounds off the tree because I was afraid it would topple with all the apples."
The wind did knock apples off some trees, "but no more so than on any windy day," Hansel said.
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