2017-11-10 / In the Know

Recap of October rain, wind storm

By B. Michael Thurlow Special to the Leader

Once again our community faced a challenging natural disaster in the form of the wind and rain storm of Oct. 30. The National Weather Service forecast the storm to start producing wind and rain in the evening of Oct. 29 with the worst conditions occurring between 3 and 6 a.m. on Oct. 30.

The NWS issued a hurricane force wind warning for the coastal waters of Maine. Portland International Jetport recorded a 69 mph peak wind gust during those hours and winds blew at a sustained rate of more than 40 mph during the peak of the storm.

Those extreme winds caused dozens of trees to come down all over town creating wide-spread power outages which during the peak impacted over 80 percent of the town. Our first responders from police, fire, EMS, fire/police and public works responded through the early morning hours as the calls started coming in.

Our public safety dispatch center called in extra staff and did an amazing job of tracking road closures and CMP priority issues on top of dispatching emergency crews where needed.

As daylight approached the true magnitude of the damage started to become apparent. Dozens of roads were blocked to emergency vehicles, multiple homes had been damaged by trees falling into them, and power lines were down all over town, and indeed all over the state. All night and through the next day and night fire/police members stood by at road closures and operated many of our traffic signals with portable generators. DPW crews were paired up with CMP trouble crews going from site to site grounding the wires to make it safe to cut out trees and clear roads.

Our dispatch center played a key role in helping to coordinate and prioritize those efforts. By the end of the day on Monday, Oct. 30 all but two road closures were mitigated so that we had emergency access to all sections of town.

Knowing this was going to be a long-term recovery, the library (which was fortunate to have power) opened for those that wanted to get warm or simply charge their mobile devices.

On Tuesday, Wentworth School also opened as a warming/charging station. Schools were closed on Monday and again on Tuesday in an abundance of caution due to the many trees and wires down all over town.

On Tuesday CMP was able to start restoration efforts. In addition to the local distribution line issues around town, CMP was challenged with 22 segments of their main transmission line infrastructure that feeds the various substations.

Those transmission lines needed to be repaired before they could send power to the distribution system downstream. First thing Tuesday morning we once again teamed up with a CMP coordinator and restoration crews. The department of public works accompanied them as they opened the remaining roads and took care of the trees debris so the CMP crews could work to restore service. By the end of the day power outages were reduced from over 8,000 to around 2,200 customers. By the end of the second day of recovery less than 1,000 homes were still without power.

Due to the extent of the pole and wire damage in many sections of town it took several days to restore power townwide, and although difficult, we appreciate the public’s understanding and patience.

Since there were still many neighborhoods without lights and with unsafe conditions due to debris and wires, the public safety team was concerned about Halloween safety on Tuesday night.

We knew the Rock Church on Gorham Road had planned a very large event at their facility similar to what they had done in previous years. We worked with them to assist with their safety plans and parking constraints and recommended that trick or treaters consider attending their event instead of walking through potentially dangerous and dark neighborhoods where power had yet to be restored.

The Rock Church was very gracious and were able to handle the additional volume of kids which was estimated at over 2,300.

Our public works department recognized that many homeowners don’t have the means to dispose of their tree debris, so they opened their landfill at 48 Holmes Road for several days to give homeowners and their contractors an opportunity to drop off debris that can be later recycled into mulch.

If you still have debris to dispose of you may take it to Commercial Recycling Center on Runway Road.

Once again when challenges like this Halloween storm face our community your first responders (including the dispatchers and fire/police), public works, school department, library, and all other town departments come together to get the job done and keep the citizens of our community safe. The mutual respect and cooperation between all departments is something to witness, and something I am very proud to be a part of.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief and emergency management agency director for Scarborough.

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