2017-11-10 / Community

Cape comes together to respond to storm issues

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – Cape Elizabeth was hit hard early last week when a wind storm brought hurricane level winds to the state, knocking down trees and power lines, which closed street and left many without power for days,

School was canceled for two days – Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 – and Halloween trick-ortreating was pushed back to the afternoon of Nov. 4. School is back in session now, power has been restored and the closed roadways are reopened.

Perry Schwarz, the town and school department’s director of facilities, said there was very little damage to town-owned facilities.

“Aside from some missing shingles at town hall and the Portland Headlight Museum, I feel our facilities fared quite well during this last storm,” he wrote in an email to the Sentry.

“The impact on our town is similar to many others in the area. Over 95 percent of the town lost power on Monday and restoration of power varied by neighborhood. Some had it back Tuesday and some it took until Saturday,” Cape Elizabeth Fire Chief Peter Gleeson wrote in an email to the Sentry. “We had numerous roads blocked by downed trees and power line and it took several days for all the be cleared.”

Gleeson said the fire department responded to more than 60 emergency calls on Oct. 30, the day the storm hit Maine. Typically, the department responds to four calls a day.

“The response from (Central Maine Power) was great. They worked with the fire department and public works to open the roads that were blocked,” Gleeson said.

Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Matt Sturgis said the storm resulted in a busy week for many town employees, including public works employees who came into work at 2 a.m. the morning of the storm to survey storm damage, report downed wires and flooding issues.

He particularly thanked public safety employees for their dedicated service and staff at Thomas Memorial Library for opening to residents to use as a “virtual office” while their homes were without power.

“Many left their homes while facing some of the same issues other residents were facing,” Sturgis said of emergency responders at the Nov. 6 town council meeting.

Schwarz said his department also fielded an uptick of calls due to the storm.

“The majority of calls handled by the Cape Elizabeth Facilities Department were in relation to fire alarms that had been triggered by the extended outage, and battery backups being completely drained. With these types of alarms occurring throughout all the buildings, the focus was on routinely inspecting the properties and making sure buildings were dry, safe and secure.”

The biggest issue, he said, was getting power back on at Pond Cove Elementary School and Cape Elizabeth Middle School since, unlike the high school, they do no have a backup generator.

“The middle and elementary school is still in need of backup power and will be a project of interest in the very near future. I am just thankful that temperatures have stayed relatively comfortable and that the weather has hopefully given everyone enough time to recover,” he said.

Interim Cape Elizabeth Superintendent Howard Colter said a generator is on his list of things he would like to see in the capital improvement budget next spring.

“It is so important to have a generator in the near future that is part of a capital plan for the district because when there is a temporary power outage we can keep things moving ahead,” he said.

Colter said a generator helps to give the high school enough light to get around and keep things refrigerated and other electricity-power systems running, but does not light the school up like it normally would be.

He said he still would have canceled school like he did Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 had all the schools been on generators.

“Even if (Pond Cove and the middle school) were on a generator, doesn’t mean we could, or would have had school,” he said.

According to the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), “The state of Maine will pursue a Federal Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance. Local municipalities are collecting data for damage to public infrastructure, which will then be compiled by county (emergency management agencies) and provided to MEMA. The state-wide threshold for this declaration is $1.9 million and each county must meet a threshold, which is based on population.”

“It is too early to know if individual assistance will be available,” MEMA went on to say in a release Nov. 2, “but that data is being collected as well and should go through the same channels. Individuals should document damage through photos and receipts and work with homeowners insurance first.”

MEMA recommends homeowners report damages through 2-1-1 Maine and file a claim with homeowner’s or auto insurance company if necessary and checked in with a local food pantry if they lost food. Farmers who have experienced losses and need assistance should contact the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency at 990-9140 and businesses should report losses to their local economic development corporation.

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