Parts of Maine are bracing for up to a foot of snow, wind and possible power outages Thursday, causing concern throughout the state as people take steps to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
The state’s two major electric companies, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine, say their utility crews will adhere to social distancing guidelines in the field as they make necessary repairs.
“We’re very worried about keeping our crews safe," Central Maine Power President Doug Herling said.
Line workers normally paired in bucket trucks would be separated while responding to the storm, but under these circumstances, a second employee will be parked in a car behind the truck, according to Herling.
Both Herling and Judy Long, a spokeswoman for utility company Emera, are urging members of the public to stay away from line crews to further prevent the spread of the virus. Mainers should prepare for potential outages by charging their phones, they added.
The pair recognized the significance of restoring power quickly -- should it go out -- considering an added reliance on electronics and appliances under the state's stay-at-home order.
“We totally understand our customers are observing stay-at-home protocols and they probably have a lot of food in their freezer, a lot of food in the refrigerator and they’re probably concerned about that if they lose power,” Long said. “We have extra crews on Thursday night as the storm is expected to ramp up.”
Another concern regarding a possible power outage is that it could hinder the ability for students and teachers to hold online classes Friday. Lewiston Superintendent of Schools Todd Finn said he has a special assignment for students if they lose electricity.
“If power goes out, you don’t actually need your laptop to do everything,” Finn said. “Perform a random act of kindness for someone in your family, write about that and e-mail it to me.”
If the power does stay on then school work, which has already been modified and scaled back for remote learning in Lewiston, will go on as usual.
A “snow day” might not have the same meaning as more students get access to new technology, according to Finn.
“We may get to the point where we might call a snow day next year, but we know we’ll shift over to remote learning,” Finn said.
Snow in Lewiston was expected to last until roughly midnight and phase out across Maine on Friday.