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Portland's Franklin Towers apartments still without full power

Portland Housing Authority has provided grocery store gift cards to residents and partnered with Preble Street to provide hot meals during the ongoing outage.

PORTLAND, Maine — It's been two weeks since power was first knocked out at Franklin Towers in Portland. The 200-unit apartment building on Cumberland Avenue is home to older adults and people with disabilities. 

Now two weeks later, power has only been partially restored. 

Portland Housing Authority oversees the building. Executive director Cheryl Sessions said all apartments in the building have access to at least three outlets in their apartments on low-load power.

Sessions said it's enough electricity to power things like refrigerators and c-pap machines, but not enough to power stoves, air conditioners, or microwaves.

"It's a waiting period now, that's about it," Franklin Towers resident Elmer Pepin said. 

Pepin lives on the eighth floor of the building. Floors 7-16 have been the most impacted. According to Portland Housing Authority executive director Cheryl Sessions, the outage was caused Friday August 26 when the building was believed to have been struck by lightning.

RELATED: More than half of Franklin Towers apartments without power

"The bus bar is one continuous bar that runs and feeds these units. At the ninth floor with the lightning strike, it blew out," Session said. 

According to Sessions, power was not lost for an extended period of time on floors one through six because electrical equipment for that portion of the building had been recently replaced following flood damage. Floors 7-16 did not have their electrical equipment replaced, and the aging technology was heavily damaged for upper floors during the storm. Sessions said part for a "temporary fix" have arrived, and power could be fully restored by late next week.

"They're going to cut the ninth floor connection part of the bar out, and basically do an end run around it, make connections about and below," Sessions said. 

Sessions said that a full replacement of the bus bar, which delivers power throughout the building, will take several months to completely replace for the upper floors of the building. 

While Portland Housing Authority navigates getting the power back on, they're working to offer supports for residents including grocery store gift cards, and are providing meals while residents are unable to cook.

"To go shopping, we get $100 worth of groceries. Most of us lost a lot of our groceries," Pepin said. 

"We really want to be able to fill as many of the needs in the community as possible and we're not always able to do that, so we try to step up and provide services wherever we can," Natalie Varrallo, Preble Street food programs director said. 

When Preble Street first heard of the outage, Varrallo said she reached out to the Portland Housing Authority to find a way to provide meals. For just under two weeks, Preble Street provided two cold meals, and one hot meal per day for residents. 

After power was partially restored, the agency began providing just one hot meal per day.

"We were having a difficult time sourcing food, we wanted to provide three meals a day while kitchens were down and things and it was hard to source because a lot of folks are shorthanded and couldn't cater this level," Session said.

"We just discussed on how we could fit that need, and meet the need for the residents that are, and within 24 we were providing 300 meals to them to cover breakfast lunch and dinner," Varrallo said. 

Preble Street will continue providing one hot meal per day for residents until power is fully restored. 

A replacement of the bus bar for the upper portion of the building is expected to take several months to be fully completed.

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