GORHAM – Tony Tanguay was on vacation near Greenville, but he didn’t hesitate Wednesday night when he heard that a severe storm had blown down a barn on Ed and Becky Benson’s dairy farm.
Tanguay and his wife, Lisa, left their camp and got back to Gorham barely three hours after the storm ripped through town and toppled the century-old barn.
Tanguay, who is a Central Maine Power Co. lineman and milks cows for the Bensons part time, didn’t need much time to decide what to do when a relative sent him a text message about the storm and the damage it had caused.
“I feel connected to the farm,” Tanguay said. “I just love this place.”
“They’re like family to us,” said Lisa Tanguay.
Violent storms that prompted tornado warnings Wednesday evening caused damage in parts of York and Cumberland counties, particularly in Gorham, Harpswell, Alfred, Limerick and Biddeford, officials said. The storms snapped trees and utility poles and damaged buildings, but there were no reports of injuries.
The National Weather Service confirmed Thursday that at least two tornadoes were spawned by the thunderstorms, which were caused by a clash of cool, dry air from a cold front and the warm, humid air that was in place until Wednesday night.
The first tornado formed near Patterson Road in Limerick at 6:22 p.m. and ran semi-continuously along the ground for about three miles, said Andy Pohl, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Semi-continuously means the tornado wasn’t touching the ground along its entire path, Pohl said.
The second tornado formed in Gorham about 7:15 p.m. and ran semi-continuously for more than five miles, from Webster Road to the intersection of routes 237 and 25, Pohl said.
Both tornadoes had winds of about 90 mph, Pohl said, making them category EF1, the second-lowest strength classification.
Maine typically gets one or two tornadoes a year, Pohl said.
Right after the storms, about 25,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers were without electricity. late Thursday night, power had been restored to all but 578 customers — 18 of them in Cumberland County and the rest in York County.
Gail Rice, a spokeswoman for CMP, said crews found more than 50 snapped utility poles in the two counties.
Rice said CMP’s goal was to restore power to everyone in Cumberland County by this afternoon, and to everyone in York County by this evening.
the time the sun came up Thursday, dozens of relatives, friends and neighbors of the Bensons were at the farm on Plummer Road in Gorham, using donated heavy machinery to pull down what was left of the barn and tossing hay bales onto trucks and trailers to be taken to a neighboring farm’s barn. Some of the debris was being burned — the town had rushed through a burning permit.
Others had pitched in Wednesday night to help the Bensons get their cows out of the barn, although a calf and a cow died in the collapse.
The Bensons were buoyed by the outpouring of help.
At noon, workers sat down to eat dozens of pizzas and subs donated by local shops, and cases of bottled water were piled high to take care of thirsts on the sunny day.
Ed Benson said the barn collapse “is not a big deal. It’s another day on the farm. When you live on a farm, you understand these things happen.”
Despite the loss of two animals, Benson said, the collapse wasn’t as devastating as some catastrophes that can befall farms, like fires.
“On the list of 10 bad things that can happen, this isn’t even on the list,” he said.
Becky Benson noted that among those who arrived at 6 a.m. was the adjuster from the insurance company, who indicated that the Bensons’ policy covered the damage and the company would be writing a check to help pay to rebuild the barn.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: