When the wind blows

How prepared are we for things we cannot control?

A devastating storm blew through the Northeast on Sunday night, creating chaos as it came. The storm has had a lingering impact into the late week and its effects are expected to be tangible in the form of damage for weeks to come.

The storm came with strong winds and brought down many trees throughout Maine. As of Monday, more than 48,000 of the 70,000 Central Maine Power customers in Kennebec County and more than 350,000 across the total service area were without power.

Central Maine Power estimated at the time of the storm that it would take several days to restore power to its customers. Virtually all public schools in Maine were closed on Monday.

Colby College Director of Operations and Maintenance Gus Libby described the challenges the Mayflower Hill community faced during the storm. Although none of the facilities on campus lost power, Libby said in an interview with the Echo, “We did lose power at the Annex building and at the Millett House, as they are on separate feeds from Central Maine Power.”

In order to prevent power outages, staff members of the Physical Plant Department (PPD) monitored the campus’s vital facilities. “Our main campus feed comes from [the] Rice Rips [road] substation, it is carefully monitored for trees and branches that may cause an issue. Once the power comes onto campus, it is all in underground concrete encased conduits, which really minimizes risks to the campus grid,” Libby said.

In the event that the underground conduits fail, the College also has generators in place for critical things like water pumps, protection of geothermal heated buildings and the vivarium in the Davis Science building.

Local meteorologists, who are calling the storm Phillipe, have said that it is more severe than the “Great Ice Storm” of 1998. According to a past Echo article, the College acted as a haven for faculty and townsfolk alike during that storm, due to many of the superior systems in place. The Colby Magazine said Mayflower Hill was one of the few places that witnessed no power outages in a storm that left two-thirds of Maine in the dark for “periods ranging from hours to weeks.” As a result, the campus served as an emergency shelter for hundreds of people well into the following week.

Due to the high winds and intense rains of tropical storm Philippe, a large pine tree outside of Roberts Union fell in the early hours of Oct. 30, damaging a window.

Libby said that while the wind and rain was comparable to the storm of 1998, the duration was shorter, sparing Maine a great amount of potential damage. He also noted that since the temperature has not dropped yet, the community by and large did not face the risk of freezing pipes.

Though the facilities on the Hill were protected, students, faculty, and staff still faced challenges as a result of powerful winds and rain. Similarly, Bowdoin College was officially closed on Monday.

Although Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret T. McFadden and Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer of the College Douglas C. Terp ’84 alerted faculty and staff 

to the severity of the storm on Monday evening and suggested safety precautions, no such email was sent to students. Given the five “good sized trees” that Libby said fell on campus during the storm, this oversight could have had potentially dire consequences.

Lily Lake ’19 reiterated this sentiment, noting “several of my friends left their windows open during the storm and woke up to rainwater on their dorm furniture and personal items.” Dangerous winds combined with ample rain could result in damage and illness.

At 6:45 a.m. on Oct. 30, the violence of the storm caused a tree to fall and break a window in Roberts Union, according to the Department of Security Incident Log.

The fallen tree disturbed and alarmed many of the residents of Roberts Union.

Aria Nicoletti ’20 lives on the second floor of Roberts and witnessed the  tree falling first-hand. Nicoletti said, “My roommate and I were asleep when we heard glass breaking downstairs.” When their third roommate entered the room to alert the girls that they should consider leaving the room due to the storm, Nicoletti and her roommates decided to assess the situation through the window. “We watched the storm and watched the tree teeter back and forth. There were staff members outside [trying to figure out how stable the tree was].” All of sudden, Nicoletti saw the tree crack and heard students in the suite upstairs yell. The tree fortunately did not hit a room and rolled off the building.

Nicoletti said, “it was kind of scary that we didn’t get an email [from the administration] warning us. If the bigger [tree] had fallen it would have broken my room’s window.”

PPD does its best to prevent any dangerous situations by continual assessments of trees’ stability and trimming potentially harmful branches.

Students living off campus also learned the extent of domestic responsibility, with several houses losing power. All 25 seniors living on Carroll Street lost power from Sunday night into Monday morning, according to Margaret Giles ’18, and several students living farther away are expected to be without power until Saturday morning.

Commutes were also affected for students, faculty, and staff. Libby said, “many employees on their morning commute were affected by down power lines and trees and branches across the road. Further complicating the commute were the intense rain and the high winds.”

Like storms of years past, Phillipe came with lessons of his own.