Arthur Remnants Batter Electric Cooperative

A large tree landed on top of this North Street home during tropical storm Arthur. (Photo by Cheryl Stabinski).

The remnants of Hurricane Arthur caused heavy damage across Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative’s (EMEC’) 3,000-square-mile delivery territory Saturday. Approximately 5,000 homes and other buildings were affected at the peak of the rolling outages, but at one point or another, there were outages in all of the 78 municipal areas served by the Cooperative. 

The storm struck Washington County during the day Saturday, with measured winds as high as 50 miles per hour as far north as Topsfield. High winds, combined with four to five inches of rainfall across the area, uprooted trees, broke large tree limbs, and even broke some trees off at their trunks. That evening, high winds began to strike Northern Maine as well, causing new widespread outages for EMEC’s members in Southern Aroostook and Northern Penobscot Counties.

To support its own linemen, the Co-op drew on mutual aid agreements and contractors, hiring three additional line crews, a pole-setting crew, and five tree-cutting crews. “This storm was unusual in that it caused heavy damage at so many sites across our entire delivery territory,” said Charlie McAlpin, EMEC’s Manager of Communication. “That’s a lot of ground to cover for our own fourteen linemen and five bucket trucks.” 

Weakened trees from the Christmas Ice Storm last December probably contributed to the damage, according to Mike Heath, a Forester at the Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge in Washington County.  “We measured three-quarters of an inch of ice here at the Moosehorn (in Calais) last December. That weight would have caused cause small fractures in the limbs and trunks of trees: even in many trees that appeared untouched. Those cracks wouldn’t have been visible except on close examination, but they made the trees more susceptible to later storms. That's why we saw trees and limbs breaking where we might otherwise have expected them to bend.”

Fewer than fifty of the Cooperative’s members, all in either remote or off-road locations, were without power as of noon on Tuesday, and  EMEC expected to restore power to all of them by midnight. 

Eastern Maine Electric Co-op is a not-for-profit, consumer-owned utility serving 12,500 homes and other buildings across 3,000 square miles of Washington, Penobscot, and Aroostook Counties. 

The support crews for the Cooperative included line crews from three other New England consumer-owned utilities: Houlton Water Company from Houlton, Maine; Littleton Electric Light Department from Massachusetts; and Madison Electric Works in southern Maine.