A third of the state lost power because of a freak snowstorm and a powerful windstorm as residents were locked down because of the pandemic. Rivers swelled because of heavy rain.
Then an explosion ripped through a paper mill.
It all added up to an unforgettable week at the Maine Emergency Management Agency’s 24-hour operations center.
“There were so many things coming our way. We were waiting for the locusts, and the tornadoes. I don’t think anything could shock us at this point,” said spokeswoman Susan Faloon.
The misery of the pandemic with Mainers under order to shelter at home was compounded by the snowstorm that knocked out power to more than 270,000 homes and businesses at the peak.
The storm meant that tens of thousands of homes and businesses were in the dark on Easter morning. Then a windstorm the next day made work even harder for utility workers with even more power outages.
All told, more than 410,000 customers lost power at some point between the snowstorm and the windstorm. That represented the largest number of power outages since a “bomb cyclone” in October 2017 caused more than 500,000 power outages.
In the end, the utility workers toiled away, around the clock, for nearly a week to restore power. Rising rivers also calmed down.
Then the ground shook and a plume of smoke emerged over the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, where about 200 workers were toiling away. Emergency responders feared mass casualties.
Governor Janet Mills fought back tears during a press conference as she proclaimed that, miraculously, no one was hurt.
Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Peter Rogers said his team was well prepared, communicated well and “didn’t miss a beat” despite the stream of bad news.
There were five potential disasters in less than week, from the snowstorm that began Thursday, April 9, to the explosion at the Androscoggin Mill on Wednesday, April 15.
“I think that’s unprecedented for us,” Faloon said. “This goes to show you we’re resilient as a state. We can handle a lot.”
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