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Sponsored by: Central Maine Power
Updated: October 17, 2022

When there’s a Maine Storm Brewing...

Q: How far ahead of a storm does CMP begin to plan?

Adam Desrosiers: We are actually planning every day.  We subscribe to three different meteorological services that provide weather updates three times a day.  In the summer and fall we are always prepared for sudden and intense thunderstorms and of course in the winter we plan for ice and wet snow—watching the storm systems form days ahead of time.   When we know we are in for a storm we activate our company emergency response plan—everyone has a role to play in serving customers through a storm – and it can be very different from their “blue sky” job. We have accountants delivering meals to lineworkers and project managers serving as local liaisons with emergency officials.

Adam Desrosiers, VP, Electric Operations, Central Maine Power

Q: How does a storm cause outages?

AD: While Mainers generally know that weather can impact electrical service, many folks don’t know what conditions specifically cause damage to the grid. Our number one challenge is high winds.  High winds can topple trees and limbs onto our poles and wires, breaking them and causing outages.  Combine high winds with wet snow and the risk of damage increases. Windy weather at the times of year when the trees have leaves is a higher risk as branches are heavier and catch the wind.  Trees are also at higher risk for uprooting in windy weather, especially when the ground is saturated.  And of course we have seen intense winds and microbursts with thunderstorms that cause enormous damage.

Q: When you see weather coming, how do you prepare?

AD: On  the operations side, we always look at our staffing and make sure our lineworkers and tree workers are positioned where we expect the impacts.  We have historical models based on forecasts that help us determine how many outages might be caused in the given conditions, how many line crews we will need to address them and if needed,  make calls to our many line contractors in Maine.  If we are expecting unusually severe weather, we welcome in lineworkers and support teams from our sister companies in CT and NY who know our system and ways of working.  And if we expect very severe weather we arrange for out of state line contractors to come to Maine.  In a large storm impacting the whole region, we can ask for mutual aid through an organized system where companies from other parts of the country travel here to help just like we will send crews to other parts of the country when needed.

Every day we are making improvements to the grid.  When a storm is approaching we also posture the electric system in preparation for the impact, returning equipment out of service back to service.

Q: Once a storm is upon us, how does CMP sytematically restore power?

AD: Our first priority in every storm is to clear any downed lines and blocked roads at the direction of local Emergency Management Agencies so that roads are open and safe for emergency vehicles.  We are also out assessing the extent of damage—understanding where outages have occurred, why they occurred and what it will take to make any system repairs. Maine is the most heavily forested state in the country and the vast majority of outages are caused by trees.  This kind of damage can take time to safely repair, especially if we need to replace poles.  We always restore critical facitlies—hospitals and medical centers first, and then we make those repairs that will bring the largest numbers of customers back at once.  Finally, we work on the repairs on the more remote and camp roads.

Q: How has responding to storms changed over the years?

AD: On some long rural lines, if there is an outage at the beginning of the circuit, everyone on it will lose power—hundreds of people over dozens of miles.  Over time we have been able to automate our system so that if one area of a circuit is damaged, we can switch power temporarily to another circuit, or minimize the scale of the outage with automated devices that allows us to restore power quickly to more people.  When the repairs are made we switch it back.  CMP will continue to invest in this kind of automation building a smarter, stronger more resilient grid so that fewer customers are impacted by each outage and more outages can be managed remotely and therefore more quickly.