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March 25, 2024

Spring storm packs surprising punch, knocking out power to more than 200,000 customers in Maine

storm damage photo / Peter Van Allen In Yarmouth on Sunday, March 24, Bridge Street was closed near Sparhawk Mill after a tree fell across power lines.

Tens of thousands of Mainers lost electricity over the weekend in a spring storm that brought, heavy snow, wind, rain and then ice — a potent mix that felled trees and power lines. 

Saturday's storm dumped more than 6 inches of snow in many parts of Maine before turning to steady rain. By Saturday night, the sound of falling trees was accompanied by the blue flash of transformers popping, with power going out in thousands of homes and businesses.

By Sunday morning, roads, cars and trees were encased in ice. 

In many areas of southern Maine, fallen trees on roads hampered travel but also cleanup crews.

As of Sunday afternoon, Central Maine Power reported that more than 200,000 customers were without power. Cumberland and York counties were the hardest hit. By Monday morning at 6 a.m., CMP reported that about half of the customers affected had power restored, though 47,105 customers in Cumberland County and 19,639 in York County were still without electricity. 

Versant Power reported 15,835 customers without power as of 11 a.m. on Sunday; by Monday morning, that number was down to 1,654.

CMP said on Saturday it staged 150 line crews across the service area. It responded to more than 250 emergency calls about downed power lines. As of Sunday, another 200 crews arrived. 

The weekend storm left many without power and knocked down trees.
Photo / Alexis Wells
The storm of March 23 left many Maine homes without power. Shown here is a power line down in Saco.

Ops center

In Yarmouth, which was almost completely without power most of Sunday, CMP set up an operations center at the public works building, with crews using an adjacent AmVets hall as a staging area for trucks.

Gas stations closed

Among the businesses that were forced to close were gas stations. Even homes with generators eventually faced the issue of gas stations being closed or without gas.

In Freeport, an Irving station was one of the few gas stations in the area open on Sunday, but it reportedly ran out of gas. Major gas stations in Yarmouth — including Irving, Big Apple and Cumberland Farms — were closed all day Sunday. Big Apple and Cumberland Farms were still closed Monday morning, with power only partially restored to the area. 

Monday morning, many schools were closed and crews had only partially restored power in many parts of the state. At an Irving station in downtown Yarmouth, customers with gas cans were lined up to get gas for generators. 

In Cape Elizabeth, many homes and businesses were still without power on Monday. The area was littered with downed trees. In otherwise quiet neighborhoods, generators were still humming loudly Monday morning.

In South Portland's Mill Creek area, traffic lights that had been out Sunday appeared to be restored by Monday morning.

snow plow
Photo / William Hall
A snowplow clears the top of a parking garage next to the Westin Portland Harborview on March 24, after a stronger-than-anticipated storm hit Maine.

The Portland peninsula, where most power lines are underground, was largely unaffected by the storm.

Although power was still out Sunday afternoon for more than 14,000 customers in Portland, mostly off the peninsula, pedestrians ventured around the downtown. Some were headed for Cross Insurance Arena, where the Maine Mariners defeated the Newfoundland Growlers 5-3.

In Portland's Arts District, there was a steady stream of people visiting the Portland Museum of Art, which was concluding its "Art in Bloom" floral installation Sunday afternoon. And a line of music fans stood outside the State Threatre, where the band Blue October was headlining.

At the Westin Portland Harborview, guests included people who lost power at their homes, one such guest reported. The hotel is dog-friendly, so that may have contributed to the influx. 

Editor's note: Alexis Wells, William Hall and Renee Cordes contributed to this report. 

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