A Look Back: The Ice Storm of ’98 – Part 2

Catherine Pegram

Updated 2 years ago

This year, TV5 is celebrating 60 years on the air.Throughout the year, we’ll look back at some of the biggest news stories of the last six decades.Among them, The Ice Storm of ’98. It left nearly 70-percent of the state in darkness, as trees and power lines toppled.It also left a lot of memories.15 years later, everyone has a story about surviving the ice storm. Now we’re sharing some of them again.The devastation of the Ice Storm of ’98 was felt in different ways, as one by one Mainers struggled to cope and recover.For farmers, like the Candage family of West Levant, it was a cellar full of water and frozen hoses as they tried to keep their cattle alive. A cry for help on a local radio station saved their livelihood. Dennis Candage said, “We had one guy from Newport, to this day I don’t know who he was, but he brought out a generator to help pump the water out of the cellar. And we had one lady gave us probably about 20 gallon jugs of water. She left a little note on it saying this ain’t much, but it’s a help, which it was.”Jim and Norma Corliss, who own a Christmas tree farm in Newburgh, lost their home in the storm. When the power went out, they used their wood-burning furnace to keep it warm. That furnace started a fire that leveled the place they’d live for nearly 30 years. Jim Corliss says, “A house is a house. It’s the things inside that really matter and there are few things that we lost that are not replaceable. And we still think about those things. But you move on.”Something that’s easier for Jim to do than Norma. Hours after their house burned down, he returned to the rubble. “I came up into what was left of the kitchen and measured from the corner to where the new door was going to be in my new house. I already had it built and the engines were still warm on the fire trucks.”For local historian Dick Shaw, who was an editor at the Bangor Daily News, it’s a heart wrenching phone call to the newsroom that’s frozen in his mind.”I’m talking two weeks later, this man in Levant was crying. He had no water. In the city we lost power but you had running water. He had a baby – no formula – what do I do? What can you do?”Among the frigid memories of the Ice Storm of ’98, there are also some fond ones. Like with Kevin O’Connell, a lineman for Bangor Hydro. He spent hours away from his family, trying to restore electricity to thousands. “A lot of us linemen working, our homes didn’t have power. So we’d get out of work, dead tired, go back to the house, have to chop ice off the roof, try to get something going in the house for heat.”His 7-year-old son Kyle missed his dad but admired his dedication. So much so he was ready to follow his father to work. “I want to be a hydro man when I grow up.”15 years later…”I don’t want to work for the hydro – not at all. Hahaha! It’s a good place to work but not for me.”Instead Kyle serves in the National Guard and wants to train to be a state police officer. But he still has a lot of respect for the man so many literally looked up to as a hero.”He’s the hardest worker I know. I’m proud of him for the stuff he does every day.”15 years after the Ice Storm, Shaw still considers it a tragic adventure. Six people died as a result of the storm, which left the state with $300 million in damage. But it also brought people together, determined to survive.Shaw says in some ways many can even laugh about it now – but not too hard. “I’d like to think it couldn’t happen again, but then who ever thought New Jersey and New York would get hit by a hurricane the way they did with Sandy. So anything’s possible. But it’s been 15 years without anything close.”There’s not much we can do to avoid another ice storm. But we have learned some things to help us better weather one. Bangor Hydro says its tree trimming program is stronger.And last month the company completed a redundant power line to cover the same area of Washington County that lost power for 29 days.So if another ice storm should try to bring the main line down again, there’s now a back up.


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