BELGRADE — A woman was seriously injured in Wednesday’s destructive storm when a tree crashed down onto the car she was inside, illustrating the intense damage felt across this scenic lake community from a system the National Weather Service later designated a “microburst.”

A day after the devastation, people were out in force cleaning up the wreckage of hundreds of overturned trees that in some cases came crashing down onto vehicles, camps and other property.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to those impacted by what was an incredibly powerful storm that yielded some jaw-dropping destruction,” Belgrade Town Manager Anthony Wilson said. “We are grateful for the small army of dedicated servants — from the town, emergency responders, the Department of Transportation, area tree services, CMP (Central Maine Power Co.) and volunteers — who rushed in as soon as they could to do what they could for the victims. Their collaboration and can-do spirit are inspiring.”

Due to the storm, the town canceled its July 1 community concert, what was supposed to be the first of a free summer music series held at the Belgrade Village Green. The town’s Christmas Tree toppled over due to high winds.

On Wednesday, Central Maine Power Co. reported nearly 1,800 outages in Kennebec County, including 1,071 in Belgrade, 380 in Rome and 270 in China. By 3 p.m. Thursday, that number had been reduced down to about 182 still without power in the county, with most of those in Belgrade.

CMP spokesperson Emily Spencer said the outages were due to the weather, as strong wind gusts and thunderstorms roared through the region.

Later Thursday, the weather service announced that the storm that hit the Belgrade area around 3:30 p.m. was a “microburst,” defined by experts as a localized column of sinking air within a thunderstorm usually smaller than 2.5 miles in diameter. Wind gusts reached 60 mph and peaked at 80-90 mph in the Belgrade microburst, which is in line with sustained wind speeds seen during a Category 1 hurricane.

“There was a concentrated damage swath about 2 miles long beginning along the eastern shore of Long Pond just north of Belgrade Village,” the Weather Service wrote in its announcement. “… Approximately 300 trees were uprooted and snapped with the heaviest pockets of damage immediately on the eastern shorelines of Long Pond and Hersom Point on Great Pond.”

In addition, at least six buildings and two vehicles were damaged  by falling trees, the Weather Service said. “The tree damage was extensive with many old growth white pines, oaks and willows being uprooted or snapped,” the weather service wrote. “Power outages were extensive in the area with many snapped poles and downed lines.”

Belgrade Fire Chief Dan MacKenzie confirmed a person was extricated from a car after it got hit by a tree, but MacKenzie said he had no more information on the person’s identity or condition. Neighbors said they heard about the woman who was injured but had no additional information.

Crews from All Seasons Tree Service of Belgrade clear limbs along Main Street in Belgrade on Thursday following a storm the day before that knocked trees down across the region. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Rescue Chief Travis Burton did not immediately return a call. Augusta Fire Chief Dave Groder said his crew responded to the scene, but they were cleared upon arrival. Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency Director Sean Goodwin corroborated MacKenzie’s report that a person was transported to a hospital in Portland after a car got hit by a tree in Rome, but had no other information, directing a reporter to contact Belgrade and/or Rome’s fire departments. Rome Fire Chief Gary Foss did not immediately return a voicemail, Rome Assistant Chief Ed Pearl Jr. declined comment.

Jason Flood, owner of All Seasons Tree and Landscaping, said storms like this happen “every so often” and reminds him of a storm that happened around Halloween of 2017. They started working at 5:30 a.m. Thursday and will go until dark. He expected to continue to work in the area for the next week or two.

“There’s minor stuff that is costly just because of roof repairs, and then there are some that are going to be total losses,” Flood said. “We’ve been pretty busy all year, but obviously this takes precedence over regular maintenance stuff.”

The storm caused significant damage on state Route 27 in Belgrade, where trees came toppling down across roads throughout the town.

Laura Richter stands outside of her newly renovated home on Main Street in Belgrade on Wednesday after a microburst storm dropped a large tree on her roof. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“It was so fast you almost didn’t realize it happened,” Laura Richter said outside her newly-renovated home on the village’s edge, which was damaged by a toppled tree.

Debris lined Main Street two hours after the storm Wednesday, with a tree worker saying they’d be in for a long night.

The iconic Day’s Store in Belgrade Lakes suffered some roof damage. Power was out for three hours and three trees in the back fell.

Joey Charles, an employee, said what started as a “classic” Maine summer storm quickly intensified.

“It was so crazy. You could see the thunder and hear it, and the building was shaking,” he said. “You just heard, ‘crack, crack, crack.’”

Sally Whittington was in a Zoom class about emergency preparedness through Arcadia University when the storm came. Lights started flickering, and by the time she went downstairs, branches started hitting the windows. Their neighbor’s propane tank had been hit.

“The dock had been taken out by the boat, so the boat acted as a sail and took the dock with it,” Whittington said. “Luckily it got pushed into my neighbor’s dock and their boatm and it was cushioned almost perfectly, lined up almost parallel.”

A fallen tree, seen Thursday, damaged Lakepoint Real Estate in a storm a day earlier in Belgrade. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Deborah Smith-Hollingsworth, who has a property on Homestead Drive, was driving into town when the storm started.

“All of a sudden the skies opened up and it just down poured, and when it started down pouring, all of a sudden we couldn’t see,” she said.

Trees went down with wires, so she and her husband, Dave, parked up the road into safety. A downed maple tree just missed hitting their home and heat pump.

Alan Baillie, who lives on Main Street, spent Wednesday afternoon biking around town taking photos and videos of the storm. A tree fell on his home, but damage was minimal. The storm happened in a flash, and also left plenty of damage in the woods, he said.

Alan Baillie on Thursday is surrounded by a downed tree limbs that blocked the front entry to his home along Main Street in Belgrade. A storm Wednesday in Belgrade brought down trees damaging homes, business and properties along town’s Main Street. Baillie said he lost seven mature trees in the storm. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“All of a sudden it was wet, and trees were down everywhere,” Baillie said.

Richter had sat on her front stoop to watch the storm, but quickly bolted for the basement when it came. Trees damaged her roof and debris coated her front yard Wednesday after the storm.

“I can’t even come up with a big story because it happened so fast,” she said.

Morning Sentinel staff photographer Rich Abrahamson and Kennebec Journal staff photographer Joe Phelan contributed to this report. 

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