Maine assesses damage for potential disaster declaration

By DAVID SHARP Markets Associated Press

State and federal emergency management officials went into the field Thursday to verify damage from a powerful wind storm to give Republican Gov. Paul LePage the data he needs to decide whether to make a formal request for federal aid.

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One of the biggest expenses is chopping up and hauling away the thousands of trees that were toppled by winds that hit 69 mph at the Portland International Jetport. There also was roof damage and damage to buildings, roads and bridges, officials said.

Local officials already made estimates that will be reviewed before final numbers are forwarded to the governor, who will decide whether to ask President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration. The state threshold is $1.9 million in damage to public infrastructure.

"We are taking a harder look at the numbers," said Susan Faloon of the Maine Emergency Management Agency. "This is really verifying those initial estimates."

The storm that struck on the day before Halloween caused more power outages in Maine than the infamous ice storm of 1998. Nearly 500,000 utility customers in lost power at one point, meaning more than half of the state's residents were in the dark.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported.

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Cumberland and Penobscot counties were among the hardest hit. In Cumberland, there was roof damage to public buildings, trees were toppled in parks, and a public pier was damaged in Falmouth, said Jim Budway, county emergency management agency director.

The winds also knocked trees and limbs onto homes and cars and fences. That damage is typically covered by insurance, but residents still should report the damage to the state, officials said. There could be a second disaster request for individuals later.

Officials said the storm's impact on people would've been greater if it had struck in the dead of winter, but temperatures were relatively mild, he said.

People went about their business for the most part.

"Mainers are very resilient. They generally live in their own homes. They have fireplaces. They have generators," he said. "People here roll with the punches."