The entire town of York lost electrical power Tuesday night after a severe thunderstorm with near-hurricane-speed winds pummeled the coastal community.
Giant trees, some of them several feet in diameter, fell on houses and crushed cars, police said.
Several people who took photographs of the damage and posted them on Twitter reported that fallen trees blocked roads, and one came down near the Village Elementary School. One photographer said a giant tree fell outside the First Parish Church in York Village while nearly 60 people were inside the building.
York Hospital lost power at 5:30 p.m. and had to use its emergency generator until it got power back around 10 p.m. Authorities said they were not aware of any injuries.
“We had trees on houses and several cars that were crushed,” said Sgt. Owen Davis of the York Police Department. “Multiple roads had to be closed. We probably won’t have a full assessment of the damage until sometime Wednesday.”
Central Maine Power Co. spokesman John Carroll said the entire town was without power at about 10:30 Tuesday night. He said crews would work through the night to restore service.
“It will be at least until tomorrow before all power is restored,” Carroll said. “This is the type of damage that we’ve seen before that is consistent with a microburst.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Legrow said Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the town of York along with the foothills region between Rumford and Skowhegan were the areas hardest hit by a string of storms that prompted an unusual tornado warning from the weather service.
Legrow said the air felt almost tropical Tuesday night. Coupled with a low cloud base, conditions were ripe for a tornado to form, he said.
Forecasters confirmed that at 5:42 p.m. Doppler radar detected a tornado near the Somerset County town of Starks, 11 miles west of Skowhegan. Radar also detected another potential tornado near East Wilton.
A suspected tornado sliced its way through a section of St. Albans, mowing down trees and knocking out power lines, police said.
Several other unconfirmed tornado sightings were reported Tuesday night, including in the towns of Mercer and Cornville, said Mike Smith, emergency management director for Somerset County..
“We had a report on the Hanson Road that the tornado had gone through there – there were power lines down, trees everywhere,” he said.
Legrow said the weather service will assess the reports and decide on Wednesday morning whether to send a team out to specific areas to determine whether any tornadoes actually touched down.
Legrow said the storm damage in York was not caused by a tornado.
“The tree damage was caused by straight line winds,” Legrow said. A top wind speed of 63 mph was recorded in Portsmouth, but Legrow suspects winds from Tuesday’s thunderstorm must have hit 70 mph. Legrow said 74 mph winds are considered hurricane force.
The weather service lifted its tornado warning for northwestern Maine late Tuesday night, but thunderstorm and flood warnings were to remain in effect into Wednesday morning.
As of 10:30 p.m., the thunderstorms had knocked out power to about 7,700 Central Maine Power Company customers.
Nearly all of those outages were in York County, with 6,946 in the town of York, according to outage information posted on CMP’s website.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow contributed to this report.