pressherald (source) :
Central Maine Power is having technical problems with the website set up to estimate when power will be restored to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses that have been in the dark since a storm swept through the state with heavy rains and intense winds late Sunday and early Monday.
The company has been directing customers to its website for updates, but acknowledged Wednesday that the total number of outages and their locations may not be accurate. It also said it is trying to fix the problem.
The announcement came as the state’s largest power outage in history entered its third day, and customers who are still in the dark are eager for any information about when electric service will be restored.
“We are aware of the problems with the web listings and we are trying to work through them,” Gail Rice, a CMP spokeswoman, told the Portland Press Herald. “But if people don’t see their street or town, it doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about them.”
Rice was unable to say specifically what was wrong with the site, which had been showing the number of outages throughout the service area growing by nearly 5,000 at midafternoon. Outages rose from 190,994 at 1:08 p.m., to 197,576 at 2:52 p.m., before decreasing to 195,693 five minutes later, according to the site.
It’s possible, Rice said, that power had to be taken down for a short time in a neighborhood, for instance, to replace a nearby utility pole or downed wire.
Rice also was unable to say why some town-specific information was incorrect.
CHEBEAGUE OUTAGES UNDERCOUNTED
A striking example was Chebeague Island in Casco Bay. The website showed the town having a total of 560 customers, but only eight without power.
Kim Munroe, the wife of the fire chief, said the entire island was mostly powerless Tuesday, but the website didn’t show that. Munroe and Viktoria Johnson, the town clerk, said they couldn’t estimate how many homes were out, but it was many more than eight.
“They’ve just got one major street up and running,” Johnson said, “but all the side roads and a good part of the island doesn’t have power. I think the website from the beginning was inaccurate.”
The internet has become a powerful tool for tracking progress during power outages, but it’s not perfect, said Susan Faloon, public information officer for the Maine Emergency Management Agency. Faloon, who previously worked for Emera Maine, which serves eastern and northern sections of the state, said she recalls times when the system couldn’t keep up with the rapidly changing data entry.
“When you have large numbers and the information is changing a lot, something can go haywire,” she said.
Faloon recognizes that people are becoming frustrated after three days without power, and noted they may not be aware of the challenges faced by utility crews. In Lincoln County, she said, 50 roads were still closed Wednesday.
“We completely understand,” she said. “We know people are losing patience.”
ACCURATE DATA FROM CIRCUIT MAPS
On the website, CMP also noted that the outage numbers are predictions based on information from smart meters, customer reports and workers in the field. In the column called “estimated restoration,” CMP lists a specific day, but a general time – 10 p.m.
“We hope to post more specific restoration times up there,” Rice said.
She said customers have been calling about the outage list, and at midafternoon she posted a message on CMP’s Facebook page.
“For those asking about the online outage list: Rest assured, we know about your power outage. The list and map are populated from a tool that estimates the location of power outages based on pieces of data from the smart meters and our crews. While this list might not show your road, please know that we are relying on sophisticated circuit maps that pinpoint every outage for us. We will continue to improve this tool and thank you for your patience as we work to restore everyone.”
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