STORM SUMMARY: Power Outages Creating Emergency Conditions

 

December 24, 2013

1:00 PM

 

Although the winter ice storm that has hung over Maine for three days has departed, it has left behind over 100,000 power outages. With today's cold temperatures, little melting will occur, and increased winds may bring down more tree limbs and power lines.

Power utilities are applying all of their own and mutual aid resources to restoration, but caution that in some areas, power may be off into Christmas, and perhaps for several days. The hardest hit areas include Hancock, Washington, Waldo, Knox, Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin Counties.

Emergency shelters and warming centers are being set up across these counties. A link to the continuously updated list is available on the Maine Prepares and [MEMA websites], and is at: http://www.maine.gov/mema/mema_masscare.shtml Individuals may also call 211 (toll-free) to learn of shelter locations and referrals to other emergency resources. Also check with local officials if you feel there is a need for a warming center or shelter in your community.

Governor Paul R. LePage announced earlier today that the State of Emergency he declared on December 21 is still in effect, which ensures that all State resources would be available to assist affected communities.

“After assuring that your family is safe, check in on friends and neighbors who may need assistance,” Governor LePage said. “Neighbors helping neighbors save lives. Please share safety information with those who might not have received it.”

State Police are reminding motorists that many intersections with traffic lights are without power and that is will be an increasing concern as we lose daylight.

Emergency responders in the hardest hit areas are reporting what appears to be an increase in carbon monoxide poisoning cases. The Maine CDC continues to join MEMA in cautioning extreme care in the use of emergency generators.

Generators should be used only outdoors, at least 15 feet away from any windows or doors.

The CDC also reminds Mainers that if their refrigerators or freezers are out of power for a length of time, some foods may not be safe to eat.

Some general guidelines:

  • Leave the freezer door closed. A full freezer should keep food safe about two days; a half-full freezer, about one day. Add bags of ice or dry ice to the freezer if it appears the power will be off for an extended time. You can safely refreeze thawed foods that still contain ice crystals or feel cold and solid to the touch.
  • Refrigerated items should be safe as long as the power is out no more than about four to six hours. Discard any perishable food that has been above 40 degrees F for two hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture. Leave the refrigerator door closed; every time you open it, cold air escapes, causing the foods inside to reach unsafe temperatures. If it appears the power will be off more than six hours, transfer refrigerated perishable foods to an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Keep a thermometer in the cooler to be sure the food stays at 40 degrees F or below.
  • Never taste food to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they've been at room temperature longer than two hours, bacteria can multiply very rapidly. Some types will produce toxins that are not destroyed by cooking and could make you sick.

Additional information is available on the Maine Prepares and MEMA websites, and at the links below.

As the power outages and road clean-up continue, there are numerous safety hazards:

  • Continue to share emergency and safety information with those who may not have received it.
  • Ice on sidewalks, walkways and dooryards will likely make for slippery going. Tread carefully, and put down sand or other material for traction on walkways around your home.
  • Ice on roadways and falling trees and power lines will continue to make travel dangerous or inadvisable.
  • Traffic lights are out in many areas. Please use extreme caution when approaching intersections.
  • All the utilities are reminding the public that no fallen power line is safe to touch. If you find a downed power line, call your electric utility immediately
  • Death can result from improper use of generators. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, use generators outside only, at least 15 feet away from doors and windows. Have a carbon monoxide detector with battery back-up where people sleep
  • Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, nausea, vomiting or dizziness. Get out of the house and call 911 at once.

For more help and information:

 

Contact:

State EOC/Public Information