Summertime in the Belgrades
July 6 – 12
The Big Blow of '17
by Rod Johnson
ROAR BANG CRASH! These noises not only awakened the people of Belgrade and other Maine communities, but were heard all across New England.
On October 28 and 29, the weather people were predicting that a low pressure system would enter our area during the evening of the 29th and the wee morning hours of the 30th. They said that heavy rains and near hurricane force winds were likely.
Here in Central Maine, by 5 a.m. on the 30th no one could doubt their predictions. After nearly 4 inches of rain during the night, the winds roared through the pitch black darkness at levels that few of us had ever experienced. The steady screeching was ominous and left one with an eerie sense of uneasiness and even fear. The houses were being peppered with all sorts of debris, in our case pine cones and limbs that were being torn from trees as well as most everything else that was not nailed down. Windows and doors were being tested to their limits.
As the first glimpses of a grayish sky appeared, the tree tops were silhouetted against the slowly emerging light. With disbelief we all watched and listened as some trees could not withstand the battering and came crashing down. More had uprooted than snapped off due to the earth's recent soaking.
As the front moved through and the winds reversed direction on the backside of the storm, even more confusion and carnage went on. Fortunately that was short lived. By 7 a.m. the winds were subsiding, daylight was complete, and considerable damage was apparent. A few vehicles were crawling around obstacles on local roads while drivers assessed the damages with awe and shock. Trees of all sizes lay atop buildings, cars, wires from poles and more.
Some folks were more fortunate than others, as it became clear that some cottages and homes were severely damaged by large pines and oaks. Pictures were taken and sent to alert owners of their misfortune and phone calls were made to describe damage and console friends.
By 8 or 9 a.m. chainsaws could be heard from all directions, generators were being fired up and the clean-up had begun. Trucks with cherry pickers (log loaders) were rolling and huge trees were being surgically picked off from roofs and out of roadways. Local tree man Paul LaBonte's phone was ringing off the hook as were many others. Insurance companies were being called, repair people and contractors were being sought to give estimates and get some temporary roof covers over severely damaged areas.
Central Maine Power company reported that over 400,000 customers were without power as of early morning. All available power company crews were in the process of locating and assessing downed wires, poles and blown transformers. Many out of state and Canadian power companies sent trucks and crews over the next several days to help put New England's power grids back together. Hats off to all the crews and to the management teams who worked with little sleep to make it all happen. Also, BIG thanks to all the emergency first responders for handling life threatening situations as well as road and tree crews who worked every possible hour to put our states, cities and towns back together.
As of this writing, now 6 days after the storm, much has been accomplished. Central Maine Power says that 67,000 remain without power. This has been a long siege for many, but we must look on the brighter side. We have the manpower and affiliations in place to get things back to normal quickly, especially compared to the devastation in Puerto Rico and other hurricane ravaged areas. Also, our weather remained enough above freezing so that homes were not freezing up and icy roads were not too much an issue.
Our people are resilient, creative and self-assisting when the chips are down. These conditions can bring out the best and the worst in people, but in this case it was the best with neighbors helping neighbors. A fifteen year old named Jackson Liberty stopped by our house and asked if we were okay!
Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.