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Maine News & Culture

Updated on January 11, 2014

The view from my front door, a few days before Christmas. That's ice, not water.

Maine's Grinchy Ice Storm

As I write this, the entire state of Maine – with the exception of some places on the immediate coast—is once again coated in ice. There are scores of accidents being reported across the state, including one that involved 4 tractor trailers and a passenger car this morning near Falmouth: http://www.pressherald.com/news/Maine_Turnpike_southbound_shut_down_by_multivehicle_crash_.html

Twitter is blowing up with accounts of sand trucks that can’t make it up the hills, cars sliding off roads, and pleas from law enforcement agencies for everyone to just PLEASE. STAY. HOME.

Those of us living in Waldo and Hancock counties, the areas hardest hit by the grinchy ice storm that stole Christmas, are still dealing with the aftermath of the last storm.

My neighborhood lost electricity on the morning of Monday, December 23rd, the 2nd day of the storm, and didn’t have it restored until Friday the 27th. Family holiday plans had to be canceled, and after the temperature inside the house dropped below 40 degrees at 5a.m. on Christmas morning, we packed up the dogs and cat and took refuge at my office where there is a back-up generator. Things were pretty touch and go there for awhile too, as the propane in the tank that powers the generator froze on Christmas day, but an emergency delivery bailed us out. When we returned home, even some of the drained plumbing fixtures had gotten so cold that they broke, and with the temps hovering around 15 degrees below zero, it was nearly 2 weeks before the plumbing & heating guys could take a break from furnace calls and come fix our plumbing. And did I mention that my car wouldn’t start, even with a brand new battery? Through Christmas week and New Year’s, life was like a freezing cold, scary camping trip.

I’d love to remodel my old house in the village, adding solar and a big woodstove, but that's not going to happen, at least not in the short run. And predictions are that we’ll be seeing more of these “extreme weather” events, so I came away from this with some survival pointers for those of us without unlimited funds:

  1. If you have a pellet stove, especially the older generation models, you probably know that when the power goes out, the smoke backs up into the house. The owner’s manual for ours actually advises us to open the front and back door of the house to create an updraft to cause the smoke to be sucked out the vent pipe. When it’s 15 degrees below zero, the last thing you want to do is open the doors, but obviously you need to clear the smoke. But if you go online before the next storm, and do a little googling, you’ll find battery back-ups that will keep the stove and fan running for at least a few hours after the power goes out. These can be added to the older model stoves for around $500.
  2. Add your power company’s outage reporting number to your cell phone contacts, and bookmark the link for their outage pages on your phone as well. CMP is: 1-800-696-1000 and http://www3.cmpco.com/OutageReports/ , Bangor Hydro/Emera is: (800) 440-1111 and http://bangorhydro.com/about-us/outages-and-restorations/current-outage-reports.aspx
  3. Monitor those sites during a storm before there is an outage. If you start to see outages in your area, fill up thermoses with hot water so you can have hot drinks later.
  4. Stock up on hand warmer packets to stuff in your pockets and socks. (We even stuck them on the dogs – not sure how kosher that is, but we were pretty desperate)
  5. Speaking of pets, have an emergency pet kit ready with their food, leashes, meds, and blankets
  6. If you don’t have a garage, park your cars facing each other in case one needs a jump start
  7. If you’ve stashed away your cooler ‘til summer, dig that out so you’ll have it handy if you need it as a makeshift refrigerator.
  8. Gather all the blankets, pillows and couch cushions, and make a “fort” – sharing body heat to keep warm.
  9. Always have some cash handy and fill your gas tank ahead of the storm. The debit card machines weren’t working even at the stores that did have electricity in the recent ice storm
  10. Layer on the clothes and try to get the pets wrapped up in blankets while you are still warm (but don’t get hot enough to perspire, as the dampness will make you colder later)
  11. Have a designated place for candles, matches, flashlights and batteries, and a stash of food that doesn’t require preparation, and include a few treats to have with your tea. (My personal favorite is Nutella).
  12. And finally, check on your neighbors, and share whatever resources you can.


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