ALBION — A small but powerful storm took down dozens of trees and damaged buildings Tuesday evening in Albion.

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service reported the damage was the result of a small microburst, which is caused by a small but powerful downdraft usually during a thunderstorm.

The microburst appears to have been localized around the area of Bog Road and hit Cedar Springs Golf Course dead on. According to the Fairfield-Benton Fire Department, the storm also did signficant damage to trees on Unity Road, Hanscom Road and East Benton Road in Benton.

The storm also caused torrential rain in parts of Franklin, Kennebec and Waldo counties, and there were scattered reports of damage and limbs and wires down through central Somerset County, including in Canaan, Athens, Hartland and Pittsfield.

On Wednesday morning, Cedar Springs owner Tim Theriault and volunteers were working to clear away at least 50 trees that were torn down during the storm. The group had to get the club opened by early afternoon so it would not have to cancel its league play Wednesday evening.

The microburst hit around 6:30 p.m., Theriault said. The microburst picked up strong wind amid hail, rain, thunder and lightning. He was hunkered down in the clubhouse with his wife, Rebecca, and two golfers who made it to shelter only minutes before the storm hit.

“It was unbelievable,” Theriault said. “That’s the worst storm I’ve ever seen.”

The burst lasted only five minutes, but that was all the time it took to do extensive damage. Theriault, who’s also the China Village fire chief and the District 79 state representative, watched the 8-foot-by-20-foot roofed porch on the front of the courthouse rip off and go sailing away.

On Tuesday morning the remains of the porch were strewn on the south side of the clubhouse and on the nearby greens.

“It was ground zero,” Theriault said. “I thought a bomb went off.”

The rain lasted for about 20 minutes before the small group made it outside to survey the destruction.

John Jensenius, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, was at the golf course on Wednesday morning to evaluate the damage. The NWS issued a tornado warning for southeastern Somerset County around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, but Jensenius didn’t think a tornado had touched down.

In a microburst, much of the damage will fan out in the direction the storm is traveling — in this case, south by southeast — Jensenius said. A tornado, on the other hand, leaves a path of damage in the direction it moves, he said.

A microburst can be as large as 2 miles wide, Jensenius said. In comparison, the burst that hit Albion on Tuesday was small, he said.

On Wednesday morning, Sonia Nelson watched Theriault and her husband, Steve, operate the claw on a grapple truck to tear down parts of a damaged tree in a stand of woods between parts of the course.

The Nelsons and their son Darren had just finished playing through the seventh hole Tuesday when they left the course because of menacing dark clouds, she said. They stopped to get a sandwich down the road. Within a couple of minutes, the storm broke, kicking up high wind and dropping hail.

The Nelsons live less than five miles from the golf course, but their house was untouched by the storm, Sonia Nelson said.

The family got a call from Theriault less than an hour later and returned to look at the damage.

“It was a nightmare. I felt so bad,” Sonia said. Considering the damage, it was lucky no one was injured, she said.

Along with the destroyed porch, the storm damaged two water pumps. A few cows from a nearby farm also got onto the course and damaged the wet greens. Theriault said volunteers spent most of Tuesday evening trying to get the cows off the course.

 

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

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Twitter: PeteL_McGuire