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New England Town Budgets Feel The Force Of 3 Major Storms

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Winter is off to a robust start in the Northeast. Thousands of New Englanders spent Christmas without electricity and a new storm meant more power outages Sunday night. The city of Portland is about a third of the way through its million-dollar, winter-weather budget.


New Englanders are a pretty tough bunch when it comes to dealing with weather. But this winter has been testing their resilience. Thousands in the region still don't have power, which has been out since an ice storm hit just before Christmas, as people were still digging out from earlier blizzards. As Maine Public Broadcasting's Tom Porter reports, there's no letup in sight.


TOM PORTER, BYLINE: A municipal snowplow clears a sidewalk in downtown Portland. This truck is one of about two dozen that have been parading the streets of Maine's biggest city since the latest winter storm hit on Sunday. Mike Bobinsky is public works director for the City of Portland, population 66,000.

MIKE BOBINSKY: We had probably 20 to 25 plow trucks that were out, including some special sidewalk tractors.


PORTER: It's been a tough December in Maine: Harsh winter weather doesn't typically arrive here until January or February. But so far, the state has been hit by two feet of snow, as well as a prolonged ice storm. Bobinsky says Portland is about a third of the way through its million-dollar winter weather budget. He's not panicking yet - the budget can handle another five major storms - but says he will start to worry if the weather carries on like this.

BOBINSKY: So far, we've probably had three major storms already. So it is significant.

PORTER: More than 7,000 people across Maine were without power Monday morning, among them Judy Berk, who lives in Northport, in Maine's mid-coast region. She's been more or less housebound due to the weather for the last eight days, but like many in northern New England, she was prepared.

JUDY BERK: We stashed a lot of water. We have a lot of food around. We have batteries and candles. We have a non-electric source of heat and cooking, a wood stove and a gas cooktop, and we have cleats for our boots.

PORTER: Berk had her power back mid-morning on Monday. Diane Hoppe, who lives about 10 miles from the Maine coast, was not so fortunate, and was still without power Monday afternoon. But she, too, was ready for what the Maine winter had to throw at her.

DIANE HOPPE: I live in the woods, so I am used to this kind of thing. I have plenty of water. I've got a woodstove, propane cooking, and I have a generator that I run late afternoon, evening, just to make sure that the house is warmed up for the nighttime.

PORTER: But what she's not used to, she says, is one storm after another, a pattern which looks set to continue, says meteorologist Russ Murley.

RUSS MURLEY: It looks like we're going to see a snowstorm brewing here for Thursday, into Thursday night and Friday. It's going to be a long duration, 24 to 36-hour event.

PORTER: Freezing temperatures will grip all of northern New England, he says, although Maine will get the worst of the snow, with accumulations of up to a foot predicted in parts. That's on top of two feet that have already fallen. For NPR News, I'm Tom Porter in Portland, Maine.

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