ST. ALBANS — The National Weather Service Thursday confirmed that the severe storm that hit the St. Albans area in Somerset County Tuesday night was a tornado.
John Jensenius, of the weather service’s forecast office in Gray, inspected the damage Thursday morning with other meteorologists from the agency and confirmed what many locals had suspected after experiencing the violent storm, according to Mike Smith, Somerset County’s emergency management director.
“We’ve never seen anything like that and we don’t want to again,” said 80-year-old St. Albans resident Glenice Hanson.
Maine typically gets two to three tornadoes each year. This was the 13th confirmed tornado in Maine since Jan. 2010, said Steven Capriola, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.
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 0-to-5 scale used by the weather service to rate the severity of tornadoes, with 0 being the least severe.
The tornado touched down at 6:52 p.m. Tuesday and was on the ground for just less than six minutes, according to the weather service. The path of the twister was 800 yards wide for a distance of 2.75 miles, moving northeast at about 30 mph.
There were no injuries, but a lot of property damage.
Glenice and Brian Hanson of Hanson Drive – where the twister touched down – said 100 trees fell in that area alone, 10 of them next to their lakeshore home.
The Hansons’ front yard on Thursday was filled with broken trees and limbs – poplar, ash, maple, birch and pine – scattered like discarded toys. A hydraulic wood splitter sat nearby, ready to turn the damage into winter firewood.
The Hansons’ son was busy with a chainsaw clearing away debris, while a contractor pitched in with an excavator to move the big stuff into piles.
“It was an awful roar,” Glenice Hanson said. “It’s more like, you could say, a freight train – it was just a big roar and a lot of wind and you could hear the trees coming down and I thought ‘Oh boy, here we go.’ It was over about before it started – it was there and it was done.”
She recalled looking out a picture window during the storm, toward the lake, and being able to see only sheets of rain driven by the wind.
Brian Hanson, 83, said four big trees next to the house were twisted and toppled, but they fell away from the house where the couple has lived for 21 years.
It was a lot of broken trees, the couple said, but no broken dreams.
“It was strange – some fell this way, but the wind came from that way,” he said pointing in two directions at the same time. “It twisted the trees right around and slammed them right down.”
There was very little damage to the house. A car was damaged and an electrical box had to be replaced, but that was it.
“We live a good clean life,” Glenice Hanson said with a laugh Thursday afternoon. “We had no damage. I still have my one blueberry bush standing and I’ve got two or three tomatoes left out here – they’ll survive.”
The Hansons said their homeowner’s insurance may cover the damage to the electrical box, but they would have to inquire about the damage to their property and the cost of the cleanup.
A twister touching down in the community is “extremely unusual,” said Town Manager Rhonda Stark. “A lot of the damage you see out on the main road the state’s going to take care of. It’s the private property owners who are the ones that are going to be hurt. A lot of those roads that were damaged were private roads and the town can’t take care of private roads. The cost to the town itself will be minimal – we didn’t have any damage.”
Traffic along about a half mile of Corinna Road, Route 43, in St. Albans was reduced to one lane Thursday as state Department of Transportation crews continued to remove fallen trees and branches from the roadway. The road on Wednesday looked like a logging yard, with dozens of downed trees stacked along the roadside.
The National Weather Service said during the storm Tuesday night that its radar had detected what looked like a tornado going through southern Franklin and Somerset counties, including the Farmington, Mercer and Norridgewock areas. The NWS investigation didn’t involve that area Thursday, and no severe damage was reported in those towns.
There have been eight confirmed tornadoes in Somerset County since 1971, the most recent in New Portland and Embden in June 2011, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate data center. Winds from that weather event were estimated at 90-100 mph.
In August 2000, a tornado hit East Ridge Road and Moody Town Road in Cornville, with wind gusts estimated at 120 miles per hour.