A National Weather Service expert on Thursday confirmed that the severe storm that hit the St. Albans area Tuesday night was a tornado.

“It was on the ground for about two miles, on a path about a mile wide,” said Somerset County Emergency Management Director Mike Smith.

John Jensenius, of the weather service forecast office in Gray, inspected the damage Thursday morning with other meteorologists from the agency.

The weather service reported that the storm had wind speeds of 80-90 mph, which would make the storm an EF-1 tornado on the six-degree scale used by the weather service to rate the severity of tornadoes.

The tornado, which touched down in St. Albans about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, had a path two miles long and up to one mile wide, according to the weather service.

“Damage was observed from the south end of Indian Pond to Melody Lane,” the service said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

The weather service said the official findings of the storm survey would be posted on its website later.

Jensenius and other meteorologists from the weather service toured the path of the storm Thursday to make a determination about whether the storm qualified meteorologically as a tornado.

The last tornado in Somerset County was on June 1, 2011, when an EF-1 tornado touched down in New Portland.

St. Albans Fire Chief Jason Emery called the storm the worst he has seen in his 27 years on the fire department.

“It looked like a hurricane went through — a lot of trees down, a lot of wires,” Emery said. “On a scale of one to 10 in the affected places it’s easily a 10. Without a doubt this was the worst storm I’ve seen. A lot of people have said when it first started they could see like a twister, but I can’t confirm that.”

While the National Weather Service said Tuesday night that its radar had detected what looked like a tornado going through southern Franklin and Somerset counties, its experts planned to take a first-hand look at the damaged caused by the storm to determine if it meets the technical definition of a tornado.

None of the other areas reported damage like that in St. Albans.

St. Albans Town Manager Rhonda Stark said she and Smith spent Wednesday morning surveying the damage to private properties.

“We went tamping through the wet and the rain and the mud,” she said. “The Corinna Road was bad — we had to close that road.”

She said there wasn’t a lot of property damage reported. “There was a home I know of that the windows were blown out. The gentleman was in the shower at the time,” she said. “Hanson Drive — that’s the worst area I saw — trees everywhere torn up and trees split and trees twisted. The roads were blocked. It looked awful.”

Residents of the affected area said the storm was one of the most powerful they’d seen in a while.

Gary Sawyer, whose 93-year-old mother’s car was partially crushed by falling trees, said he believes it was a tornado, seeing the way the wind twisted everything in its path.

‘WE HAD A TWISTER COME THROUGH HERE’

“We had a twister come through here and that twister come right down,” Sawyer, 72 said from his yard. “She had a car parked here and trees come right down and landed on it.”

Sawyer’s neighbor on High Street, off Corinna Road, Misty Lary, said the wind picked up just after 6 p.m., just as emergency alerts were being broadcast on her cellphone.

“The alert on my weather app was going off as the rain was coming into my dining room, flooding my dining room,” Lary said. “I shut the sliding glass door, but I had a hard time because the wind was so strong it was pushing me back — it was in the blink of an eye.

“The screen from the window blew in my face and when it hit, I saw the tree come down on our hot tub and our snowmobile trailer took a ride by itself and stove up our house — the trailer hitch went right through the wall.”

Emery, the St. Albans fire chief, said it appeared the storm first traveled east along Corinna Road, which is Route 43, then veered north, hugging the shoreline of Indian Lake, toppling trees as it went. The area of Warner Lane and Hanson Drive, on the lakeshore off Dexter Road, appeared to be among the hardest hit as dozens of trees still lay on the ground by mid-afternoon.

The weather service Tuesday night reported that radar showed tornado activity in Mercer at 6:17 p.m., with more activity in Cornville. Earlier, possible tornado activity was reported in Franklin County between Farmington and Industry, as well as between Norridgewock and Skowhegan around 6:30 p.m.

Stark said town-owned property did not receive much damage, but private landowners saw huge trees ripped out of the ground. During the storm, however, a shed on Water Street in the center of St. Albans blew from one property to another, landing on the grange hall lawn, Stark said. She said no one was hurt in the storm.

Denise Emery, a resident of Corinna Road, said the wind was so strong it bent a flag pole in her yard and took down a large maple tree. She said the power went out and was not restored until about noon Wednesday. Other Central Maine customers spent much of the day Wednesday with no electricity.

“The powers lines were laying in the road — five poles had to be replaced last night and three transformers,” she said.

Crews from cable television companies, Central Maine Power Co. and private forestry contractors worked though the night and through the day Wednesday, first cutting their way into the troubled areas, then slowly restoring service, a painstaking process.

“It’s real bad — hundreds of trees down everywhere, ripped right up from the roots and turned round and round,” Erickson Estes of Time Warner Cable Co. said. “There are hundreds of trees down.”

Trees stacked along Corinna Road, east from the village center, looked like a logging operation with dozens of uprooted and severed trees piled up and still partially blocking the travel lane. Cars were damaged, windows were blown out and trees snapped and twisted in the high winds

Corinna Road was closed to all traffic from about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday until 2 p.m. Wednesday.

MADISON FLOODING

In Madison, where flash flooding inundated parts of downtown Tuesday night, Road Commissioner Glen Mantor said public works crews spend much of Wednesday making repairs to roads that were washed out during the storm, including River Road and Golf Course Road. By Wednesday afternoon there were still several roads where the shoulders had washed out, although most fallen branches and flooding were under control, he said.

“It’s no emergency, it’s just going to take us a few days to get everything cleaned up,” said Mantor.

On Main Street, where severe flooding was reported near the Circle K/Irving station, the road was clear by Wednesday afternoon, although there was some slight damage to sidewalks, he said.

In Madison, Road Commissioner Glen Mantor said public works crews were busy making repairs to roads that were washed out during the storm, including River Road and Golf Course Road. By Wednesday afternoon there were still several roads where the shoulders had washed out, although most fallen branches and flooding were under control, he said.

“It’s no emergency, it’s just going to take us a few days to get everything cleaned up,” said Mantor.

On Main Street, where severe flooding was reported near the Circle K/Irving station, the road was clear by Wednesday afternoon, although there was some slight damage to sidewalks, he said.

Severe weather also rolled through other sections of central Maine, but with less dramatic impact.

Mike Grant, on-duty officer for Maine Emergency Management Agency, said that he received reports of damage in Somerset County, York and the Farmington area, but nothing in Kennebec County.

In Franklin County lightning strikes and roads blocked by pools of water were reported Tuesday, though the water had receded by Wednesday.

Despite the scenes of serious damage to trees and buildings, no injuries were reported.

Corinna’s town manager, Kimberly Godsoe, died in an ATV accident in Moscow on Sunday. Stark, St. Alban’s town manager, said of the lack of reported injuries, “I’m just so thankful of that, after what happened on Sunday, and now this.”

Stark had hired Godsoe to work at the St. Albans office, where Godsoe ultimately worked as administrative assistant from 2008 to 2011 when she was appointed manager in Corinna.

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.