A fall storm on the final day of September with powerful wind gusts cut power to thousands of people across central Maine on Wednesday, sending tree limbs into roads and prompting early dismissals for some local schools.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Central Maine Power reported 19,749 outages across Kennebec County, which was nearly a quarter of customers there, though by the early evening that number had dropped to 13,100. In Oakland, north of 66% of CMP customers, 2,450 of 3,694, lost power, the highest outage rate of any town in the county with at least 1,000 CMP customers. More than 2,800 customers lost power in Waterville.

“For a couple hours it was a little crazy with trees and wires down,” Oakland Fire Chief David Coughlin said. “No major emergencies. The tree limb that came down on Kennedy Drive at the intersection caused some disruptions and detours and opened back up.”

An arborist clears a tree from the wires over the five-way intersection Wednesday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Nearly 60,000 CMP customers across the state lost power as torrential downpours and high wind gusts swept across Maine.

By Wednesday afternoon, Somerset County had 8,183 outages among it 30,300 customers; and of Franklin County’s 23,455 CMP customers, 7,629 lost power.

Somerset County Emergency Management Director Mike Smith said the regional communication center received 215 calls between 6 a.m. and noon.

“It was obviously a pretty hectic morning,” Smith said. “Mostly minor reports of trees and wires down. We had a couple where trees were blocking the road, but had constant contact with CMP throughout the morning.”

Meanwhile, six of eight schools in Regional School Unit 18 were dismissed by morning’s end. Oakland’s Messalonskee High School, Messalonskee Middle School, Atwood Primary and Williams Elementary were dismissed early, as were China Primary and China Middle. Elementary schools in Belgrade and Sidney remained in session for the remainder of the day.

In Waterville, a downed tree on Winter Street wiped out a handful of power lines, and another tree fell on High Street, forcing a closure. Some traffic lights in Waterville also lost power, resulting in traffic jams.

A pole in Winthrop fell across Route 135, and many delays and shutdowns were reported across the region. The Winthrop Town Office closed due to a power outage.

“In the area we had several downed trees and power lines in just about every town that we dispatch for,” Winthrop police Lt. Pete Struck said. “It was mainly just trees taking down power lines.”

A representative from the National Weather Service said wind in Augusta gusted up to 49 mph. Winds in Waterville reached speeds of 47 mph, and sat around 25 mph most of the morning. Heavy rain in the Waterville area ended by mid-morning and was followed by a few afternoon stray showers. Augusta got 0.5 inches of rain and Waterville reported 0.54 inches by early afternoon.

National Weather Service Meteorologist John Cannon said an increased wind event is occurring a bit earlier this year, as many wind events happen in early October.

“Those winds are strong but they’re not exceptional, so there must have been other factors,” he said. “We’ve had stronger winds than that with less power outages.”

Cannon said trees have yet to see a lot of their leaves fall, and those leaves are acting like sails for a boat and bringing more limbs down. He said dry soil could also create better conditions for trees to uproot.

Kennebec Journal staff writer Sam Shepherd contributing reporting. 

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