PORTLAND, Maine – Utility crews wearing snowshoes and riding snowmobiles trudged through chest-high snow Tuesday as they worked to restore electricity to tens of thousands of customers still in the dark a day after a wind-whipped storm barreled through Maine.
Nearly 45,000 homes and businesses were still without power Tuesday afternoon, down from the 140,000 customers without electricity at the peak of Monday's storm that snapped tree limbs, power lines and utility poles and dropped 2 feet of snow on the region.
Central Maine Power Co. expected to reduce the number of outages to 30,000 by Tuesday night. Electricity is not expected to be totally restored until Thursday night, said CMP spokesman John Carroll.
Bangor Hydro Electric Co. said some homes in outlying areas could be without electricity into Wednesday.
The utilities blamed poor road conditions and the rural locations of many outages for slowing efforts to restore power.
CMP equipped many of the workers with snowshoes and snowmobiles to help them tramp through deep snow to reach lines in need of repair, Carroll said. At one point, the utility ran out of snowshoes.
"We've had so many people struggling with the snow, we started calling L.L. Bean and Cabela's and Sam's Club to see who had them," Carroll said.
Fifteen shelters were set up around the state Monday night, but only a small number of people spent the night there.
"That's typical," said Lynette Miller of the Maine Emergency Management Agency. "We need to have the shelters available, but people tend to tough it out or go to family or friends."
Gov. John Baldacci declared a state of emergency Monday to extend the hours that power crews can work to restore electricity. On Tuesday morning, he joined CMP President Sara Burns in touring neighborhoods in Brunswick and Bath that remained without power.
Baldacci, who met with several crews who came up from Massachusetts and Connecticut, urged Maine residents once again to use caution in dealing with downed lines and portable generators.
"Be patient. Look out for your neighbors, your family and yourself," he said.