MIDCOAST — Midcoast news was dominated by the historic wind storm last week. We closely followed the aftermath of this weather event both on the Coastal Journal website and on Facebook, sharing news and updates as they happened. The Coastal Journal office in BathPort on Commercial Street didn’t get its power back until late Wednesday night, and by then we were scrambling to get this week’s issue planned and on the page.

Driving around the Midcoast collecting photos of damage and talking with folks cleaning up, it’s hard to really understand how things ended up the way they did. In one area, you can drive along a road surrounded by fall foliage with just a few twigs dropped here and there. Turn a few corners and drive a mile, and suddenly trees were splintered in rows and electrical wires draped on branches, with ribbons of it coiled in the street.

Despite the destruction, power outages, and lack of a shower, people I’ve talked to have been generally in OK spirits. Mainers, from my experience, tend to be the sort of people that shrug their shoulders, say “well, what can you do,” and get to work.

“At least the pipes won’t freeze” was a common quip.

But keeping things frozen was exactly the problem Kimberly Gates, who runs the Bath Food Bank, needed to solve. Over a dozen freezers, full of food for the hungry, were slowly warming up as the power outage wore on. Each freezer has a timer on it, and after 48 hours, regardless of condition, every single bit of food would have to be thrown away.

“We would have lost between $11,000 and $15,000 worth of meat,” she said. That includes 32 turkeys waiting for Thanksgiving.

As hours turned into days, Kimberly was desperate.

That’s when she got a call from Rick Chipman, of the Bath Fire Department. He was wondering if they could offer any help as a warming center or other service.
“Then he found out that I had no power and 19 freezers,” said Gates. “He called me back and said, ‘come to think of it, I think you need more help than I do.’”
Gates got a surprise when Rick showed up in the fire department’s ladder truck. “He pointed to the ladder truck and said, ‘I brought you a million dollar generator,’” she said.

Chipman hooked it up and got the electricity back on to the freezers and brought the temperature back down. The timers on all of them read 47 hours without power. A half-hour more, and all that food would have gone to waste.

“We were able to save everything, and they did it in two hours,” said Gates.

Gates still lost all her fresh produce and dairy products. They’re holding a big food drive on Nov. 18 and 19 for Thanksgiving, and their largest fundraiser – the annual Turkey Trot – on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, to help raise money. For more information, visit www.bathfoodbank.org.

Hopefully, you’ve read this by light-bulb, and not candlelight. Cleanup is still ongoing. I’m sure some of the trees that fell will be missed, still more will be discovered in the woods, and the scars of this storm will remain for decades to come.

Here’s hoping it’s the last time we have to deal with something like this for awhile, though knowing Maine, I’m going to keep some water on hand. Just in case.