How Do 2013 Ice Storm and Outages Compare to ’98? 

This week’s ice storm-with its extensive damage and widespread power outages-had many Mainers flashing back to 1998.

“All of those memories came rushing back because you’re seeing thick coats of ice on the trees and they’re all sagging and that sort of thing. And I just remember that that caused so much damage systemwide and that really gave me a sinking feeling that we were in for a long few days,” said Susan Faloon of Bangor Hydro.

But how does the 2013 ice storm stack up to 98? We asked our resident expert Chris Ewing.

“I think it pales somewhat in comparison to the 98 ice storm, though there are some similarities. The 98 ice storm lasted a few more days than this one did in terms of the accumulating ice ball,” said Ewing.

Inland areas were far harder hit with ice in 98. However…

“Along the coastline it was more freezing rain out of this current storm, so along the coast it was a little closer in similarity,” said Ewing.

In coastal towns there was significant damage to trees this time around-leading to the outages that have persisted all week in some areas, but 98 was a whole other level.

“Even after the ice melted it looked like someone had taken a large saw and just cut off the top portion of the trees-the tops of the trees were just snapped right off. It was just amazing to see the amount of damage that was done in 98,” said Ewing.

Snapped trees meant downed lines and toppled poles throughout the state-and as a result some 700 thousand Mainers lost power-some for weeks.

“We had 13 miles of poles snapped lying on the ground and that was our single line feeding Washington County,” said Faloon.

Bangor Hydro attributes fewer outages this time around not just to the relative size of the storm, but to upgrades made to the power grid.

“What we have done since then is we have built a second line so if we lose our primary line we have another transmission line that we can switch over to. Plus we made improvements to that original line, so we’re definitely in much better shape for a situation like this,” said Faloon.

But for those still without power some six days after the storm hit, that may be little consolation.

“Both storms have high impact and if you’re without power it doesn’t matter if it was 98 or now,” said Ewing.