Hundreds of thousands still without power in NH, Maine. Crews to work into weekend.

Ian Lenahan Max Sullivan
Portsmouth Herald

Utility providers in New Hampshire and Maine expect their crews will work into the weekend to restore power to hundreds of thousands of residents following this week’s nor’easter that downed trees, lines and left the two states in darkness. 

The spring system that began Wednesday night and continued throughout Thursday brought snowfall, strong wind gusts and coastal flooding to Maine and New Hampshire, closing municipal buildings and schools into Friday and leaving many without power.

A spring nor'easter hit the Seacoast Thursday, April 4, 2024, with a mix of snow, sleet, rain, heavy winds and power outages.

Jon Breed, spokesperson for Central Maine Power, reported that as many as 375,000 customers throughout Maine had their power knocked out by the storm. By early Friday afternoon, 140,000 customers had their power restored. 

“I certainly think we’ll be working until Sunday.” he said in an interview Friday afternoon.

At 1:30 p.m. Friday, over 223,000 Central Maine Power users were still without power throughout Maine, the utility noted. In York County, where many residents have had no electricity since the storm began, more than 76,700 Central Maine Power customers were without power.

Stay updated:Follow our power outage tracker

“This is the result of changing weather patterns. This is the result of changing climate,” Breed said. “We’re making investments in hardening and strengthening the grid. But when you have a foot-and-a-half of cement-like snow building up on these trees, they’re going to come down.”

Central Maine Power said in a Thursday news release that restoration efforts in some of the hardest hit places in the state could last until next week.

One thousand crews from the utility will be spread across the state by Saturday. Central Maine Power had 450 crews pre-staged going into the storm.

Working alongside municipal officials during the duration of the storm on Thursday, as well as the damage caused by the system, barred Central Maine Power crews from beginning most restoration work until early Friday morning.

Over 1,200 emergency calls were made Thursday that required some assistance from Central Maine Power, Breed said. 

“We’re working through a volume of work down there,” he said of southeastern Maine. “I think we’re going to be making really good progress today and tomorrow. We’re already seeing a lot of communities come back along.”

How much snow did you get?

Following a big storm, book library at the First United Methodist Church in Rochester is covered in snow as residents dig out and some still are without power April 5, 2024.

The National Weather Service’s team in Gray, Maine released a list of snow totals recorded Friday morning throughout Maine and New Hampshire. 

In Kittery Point, 1.2 inches were recorded, while Sanford saw 15 inches fall. In between those totals, South Berwick reported 3.8 inches, compared to 6.8 inches in Berwick, 9.3 inches in Wells and 10 inches in Kennebunk.

In New Hampshire, 4.5 inches were recorded in Greenland and Durham, in addition to 5.8 inches at Portsmouth International Airport, 6.5 inches in northern Dover, 9.5 inches in Northwood and 12.1 inches in Barrington. 

Eversource, Unitil work to restore power in New Hampshire

Following a wintery mix storm which still has Seacoast residents without power, a worker at a car dealership begins brushing the reminants of the storm away April 5, 2024.

Representatives from Eversource and Unitil have stated power restoration in New Hampshire will likely be a multi-day effort.

At 1:35 p.m. Friday, Eversource reported approximately 53,300 New Hampshire customers were without power, just shy of 10% of its total customers in the state. 

Over 2,200 line, tree and service crews from Eversource, including from out-of-state, are working to bring power back to Granite State users, said utility spokesperson Kaitlyn Woods.

“The number of crews will be comparable to some of the large storms we responded to last year, which are among the most impactful in our state’s history. On the heels of last week’s ice and wind storms that left trees already weakened, trees and branches buckled under the weight of the heavy, wet snow from this nor’easter,” she wrote in an email Friday afternoon. “When the strong wind gusts whipped across the state, it caused devastating tree damage that made travel conditions incredibly difficult for our crews, with blocked roads, closed roads, downed wires, and cement-like snow across the state.”

Since the onset of the storm Wednesday night, Eversource has brought power back for over 194,000 customers as of 1 p.m. Friday. Over 75,900 of those outages were restored in less than five minutes using smart switches Eversource has installed in its system, according to Woods.

The company is additionally clearing 300 blocked roads, replacing 125 broken poles, and responding to more than 1,000 public safety issues throughout New Hampshire.

“Today, we’ve been focused on safely executing our plan to get the thousands of crews supporting this massive restoration effort to the hardest-hit areas to restore power to our remaining (roughly) 58,000 customers as quickly and safely as possible, while we also continue to address any priorities for our communities and finish clearing blocked roads,” Woods said.

One of the largest portions of that total came from Rochester, where 2,200-plus Eversource users were without power Friday afternoon.

“Chocorua and north Rochester are our hardest-hit communities and we’re continuing to shift resources to those areas to tackle damage locations,” Woods said.

Unitil serves more than 79,500 customers in New Hampshire, about 3,400 of whom still had no power at 1:50 p.m. Friday. Between Exeter, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook and Stratham, over 1,000 Unitil customers were without power at that time, and the utility reported that it isn’t expected to be restored until Saturday before  1 p.m.

The majority of Unitil’s customers won’t see their power restored until mid-day Saturday, the utility noted in a Friday morning news release.

“Customers are reminded that in the event of downed wires, they should assume all cables and wires that have fallen or dangling are energized and stay away,” the supplier wrote. “Be sure to avoid wet ground or puddles near a downed line because water conducts electricity. In addition, keep away from all flooded and debris laden areas because they may be hiding downed lines. Stay in a safe place and avoid driving in damaged areas so you don’t interfere with rescue and restoration efforts.”

Officials in Hampton, Portsmouth, York Beach react to storm damage

A warming shelter was opened Friday in Hampton fire station on Brown Avenue to help anyone who lost power. Hampton Police Chief Alex Reno said there were 326 electrical customers still without power at that point.

Some were expected to be restored by 11 a.m. that morning, he said. If not, he said Until gave an estimated time of 7 to 9 a.m. Saturday morning. He said that has to do with how much work their crews have to do statewide.

“I think they’re out there working as fast as they can to restore power,” Reno said.

The power outages were mostly caused by wet, heavy, packable snow that has caused trees to bend and branches to fall into power lines. He said they have storms with outages every few years.

“That really wet, heavy snow just caused a number of these issues specially in Hampton,” Reno said.

In Portsmouth, Public Works Director Peter Rice said the city only had a few outages compared to the rest of the state. Like with Hampton, he said the heavy, wet snow caused trees and branches to come down on power lines.

Portsmouth’s water plant located in Madbury lost power and required full-time staff to be there to make sure it was operating properly.

“We’re fortunate,” Rice said. “The folks that have lost power, it’s no consolation, but from an operational standpoint, it has not impacted our operations.”

York Beach Fire Chief Jeff Welch said almost the entire town lost power at one point. He said both the town’s fire departments, the other being the York Village Fire Department, took a combined 90 calls for service over the course of 24 hours.

Welch said the downed trees on power lines and heavy winds caused many of the power outages.

“We were very busy,” Welch said.