The Wind Howled and the Power Stopped

The Great Ice Storm of ’98 is something that’s nice to have in your back pocket, in a “I was without power for 08 days and learned to shit in the woods like a bear” sort of way. It’s nostalgic, something you can dust off and regale hipsters who maybe just moved to Maine, or just bought a house in the country after living on the West End for five years. However, I’m not really keen about re-living it, at least not this year.

I got about three hours sleep Sunday night. I was sure a tree was going to snap off and come through the roof of our bedroom. We live about 100 feet from a cove and the winds were gusting well above 60 miles per hour about 2:00 a.m.

Our gray Chartreaux, Lucy, was troubled all night. She came up to snuggle with us prior to the winds making a sound like a freight train outside our deck door. But, like me, she knew this wasn’t a normal night for sleep. Mary seemed to be okay, as she’s a much sounder sleeper than I am.

I heard a crash around 4:45. This was after I’d gotten up, watched some bad TV, charged my phone and crawled back under the covers at 4:30, just as the power flickered twice and went off. At this point, I wasn’t getting back up.

Dozing off fitfully until the first flickers of daylight shown into the room, I looked out and could see the carnage. Trees had snapped off and fortunately due to the wind driving from the south and southeast, pushed them away from the house. The crash was one of the panes shattering in our double-paned window that looks out from our kitchen nook onto Woodward Cove. At least pane #2 remained intact.

Once we were up, we went out and surveyed the damage more closely. I pulled the top of one of the two spruce trees in front of the house that had snapped off. The other one got uprooted and was lying on its sided across the front lawn. Our circular driveway was partially blocked, but we could get out to Leeward Cove Road and also Route 24. A large tree had come down where those two intersect, but there was room for a car to pass.

Our 30-foot tree was no match for the wind.

Mary called Portland and work and they had power. She left around 8:15. She told me she’d stop at Starbucks at Cook’s Corner and if they were open, bring me a coffee back home. She called and said the power was out there and that there was a tree “pulling down the wires” on Route 24, the main road between Brunswick and the islands on the Gurnet/Bailey/Orr’s Island side of Harpswell.

I’m pretty sure that CMP must have dumped the substations to kill all the major circuits right around the time that our power went off. This was also at the height of the storm’s wind and when the damage was occurring from trees snapping off. This prevents further damage and issues with energized wires being contacted by flying tree limbs and trunks.

The main feed coming up Harpswell Road has two poles twisted sideways. Both of the crossarms on the affected poles are badly twisted and will need to be replaced, if the pole itself doesn’t end up being reset. The linemen that do remarkable jobs in all manner of inclement weather will have their work cut out for them. I’m just hoping the damage isn’t as extensive to the power grid as it was back in 1998. If it’s not, then I’m guessing restoration will proceed much more quickly. I don’t anticipate having electricity today, however.

In terms of the other adversity we’ve faced this year, being without electricity is pretty minor. Still, when you become accustomed to creature comforts, it does “ding” you just a bit.

This morning, things are returning to normal nearby. Starbucks was open after being closed all day on Monday. On my way home from the Y where I swim and today, mainly went to have a shower, I stopped and heard two of the baristas talking about people stopping by and “circling the building” while they were closed, yesterday. The big issues for many on Monday were coffee and gasoline. There was an hour-long gas line in Topsham. Makes me think about what things might be like if we ever faced a longer-frame disaster than one lasting a few days or what might last for some up to a week. 70 percent of the island is still without electricity 6 weeks after the island being flattened by a hurricane.

I posted something earlier on Facebook about “disaster capitalism.” We might be in the early stages of a new way of life, one where decisions are made solely to enrich the few, ignoring the needs of the larger group.

Sitting in a local coffee shop/baker downtown, I’m privy to a host of conversations. The crowd is mainly older seniors. Most have lived good lives free from privation and lack of excess. Almost all of them lead me to believe that few of us are capable of lasting more than a week without electricity, let alone five weeks. I wonder about my own capabilities.

Weather events like this one are yet another reminder of how powerful nature is, and how insignificant we really are. Unless we change our ways (and I’m doubtful that we will), she could rid the planet of us in short order if she ever wanted to. And yet man still thinks he can tame nature, and disregard the Earth for his own greed and avarice.