Last night it snowed in Mid Coast, Maine. This morning we awoke to about 6 inches of the heavy wet stuff, the kind that bends and breaks very soft birch tree trunks and lowers laden pine branches to the ground. Yesterday it was an early spring day in southern Maine, and today it is again full-on winter. Those of us who were finding consolation amid the Coronavirus pandemic by the promise of spring – crocuses and hyacinths blooming, daffodils almost ready to burst forth in their glory, forsythias on the brink of yellow buds – have had our hopes dashed in a matter of hours.
But that’s not our only loss. Many Maine residents awoke this morning to find they had lost power during the night, a regular occurrence when the snow is heavy and wet, and most of the power lines are above ground. When I checked at 7:00 a.m. today, over 200,000 customers of Central Maine Power (CMP) were experiencing outages. The most extensive CMP customer base is in Cumberland County, where I live. There are 166K CMP customers here, and as of 2:45 p.m., 7,819 remain without electricity. In my town, 1,357 homes are still without power. Ours is not one of them, thankfully.
Power outages are inconvenient and annoying at any time, but now they compound the already high anxiety we are suffering due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Many households, like us, have stocked up on groceries and have refrigerated or frozen large quantities of food to tide them over during the “stay at home” phase of the disease curve. When I told my spouse this morning about the extent of outages in our county, she exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus!” Not one of her usual utterances. She is enormously relieved that we have electricity. She has stuffed our tiny freezer with carefully planned and rationed meals to last us for a month or more. Imagine the distress and angst for those who awoke this morning to find their store of frozen food on the way to defrosting.
Furnaces and heaters are not working. Hot water is lukewarm, on its way to cold. And, of course, no one can take shelter with friends or family at this time. We must stay away from one another, at home in our cold houses, losing hundreds of dollars worth of food. Since many people have lost jobs and the federal stimulus package has not yet delivered its meager assistance to the average family, replacing that food when the power comes back on may be, at best, a stretch economically, and at worst impossible.
Around us, a day ago, we saw lawns beginning to green and woodland paths dry enough for walking, one of the few safe activities at present. Now we see huge piles of dirty snow that we can expect to marr the landscape until, perhaps, May 1 or longer. In 2020 Maine will have two mud seasons! Who would blame a Mid Coast Mainer for feeling his or her spirit crushed? It’s just too much!
But don’t feel too sorry for us. We are incredibly resourceful. We have to be to love living in Maine. The snow will melt, the hardy daffodils will survive, and eventually, the power will come back on. As of today, there are 586 cases of COVID-19 in Maine. Seventeen people have died. Our stats are low compared to other states because Maine reacted early to put measures in place to protect our population. Our public officials learned from other areas of the US further ahead on the disease curve. Also, we are a mostly rural state with a low population density.
Though it may seem that the April 9, 2020 snowstorm has added insult to injury (or perhaps injury to injury), it was an incredibly beautiful wonderland outside my window when the day dawned this morning. Courage Mainers! Onward!