A powerful storm rolled through Maine and New England on Monday, bringing down trees and knocking out power lines. More than 500,000 utility customers in Maine lost electrical service, including Chewonki, where grid power is not expected to return until Saturday.
While we escaped any major damage, it has been a challenging week of cleanup for our facilities crew, led by Facilities Manager Carob Arnold. Several large trees and countless smaller branches covered the roads and trails in the wake of the storm. So thick was the initial deadfall on the road, Arnold had to get creative.
“The ride in on Monday morning, just as the storm peaked was pretty hairy” says Arnold. “There was just so much debris on the road, I hooked up the snowplow to clear the way. It just wasn’t passable otherwise.”
“It’s been a long time since we had wind of this magnitude,” says Arnold. “We get the tail end of hurricanes periodically, but it’s been several years since we saw an event with this much damage.”
One of the biggest takeaways from this weather event was noticing how much better the Chewonki campus has fared then the surrounding community. With our high degree of “sustainability practice,” including solar power, woodstoves, and on-site farm & food systems, losing electricity from the grid has been a minor inconvenience, rather than a complete-shutdown, which most local area businesses and homes have faced.
“The team here is awesome,” says Arnold. “They rise to the occasion. There are still lots of trees to cut up, but we’re so far ahead [of the clean-up] we’re alternating with normal seasonal work, like taking the docks out. The tide doesn’t wait.”
For the students in residence at Maine Coast Semester, the week has been a mix of fun and frustration.
Classes continue as usual, but study halls have been marked with candle light, and homework require a little extra effort to complete assignments the old-fashioned way: by hand.
We expect full service back tomorrow with a mix of anticipation and regret. It has been a cozy couple of days “off the grid” at Chewonki.