February 1, 2013

Wild, wacky weather brings blow after blow to Maine

Powerful winds cause 94,000 CMP customers to lose electricity over the course of Thursday.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – From record-breaking warmth and thick fog on Wednesday to near hurricane-force winds and rain on Thursday, the last two days of weather in Maine were wild.

click image to enlarge

On Thursday, January 31, 2013, the wind blows hard on Fore Street in the Old Port as Pierrette Bolduc from Biddeford passes by a rack of blowing colorful silk and cotton scarves from Indonesia at Siempre Mas.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

On Thursday, January 31, 2013, the wind blows hard as waves splashing up on the rocks at the Portland Head Light frame Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse and blowing waves.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Powerful winds battered the state for much of Thursday, knocking out electricity to thousands of Central Maine Power Co. customers and blowing a section of the roof off the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.

On the Kennebec River between Richmond and Gardiner, several smelt-fishing shacks were blown upriver on the rain-slicked ice.

The wind provided a stark contrast to Wednesday, when Portland had fog and a record high temperature of 52 degrees.

That broke the record of 49 degrees for the date, set in 1959, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.

On Thursday, the high temperature of 54 degrees tied the record set on Jan. 31, 1988.

Temperatures dropped as skied cleared later in the day.

Eric Sinsabaugh, a meteorologist with the weather service, attributed the wacky weather to an intense low-pressure system that stretched from Canada to Miami.

The system, which spawned tornadoes in Southern states, had moved out of New England and over Labrador by Thursday night.

Sinsabaugh said the system produced strong wind gusts throughout Maine on Thursday, with the most powerful -- 74 mph -- recorded on Matinicus Rock.

Hurricane force is defined as a sustained wind of at least 74 mph.

"That's natural for us," Wanda Philbrook, postmaster on Matinicus Island, told The Associated Press.

"It's just another day in paradise," 20 miles off the coast of Maine.

A wind gust of 63 mph was recorded in Bath on Thursday. Around 8 a.m., the gusts were strong enough to blow two large sections of copper sheathing off the roof of the Maine Maritime Museum's main office and exhibit building.

Amy Lent, the museum's director, said the museum had to be shut down for the day while crews repaired the roof.

The affected part of the roof covered third-floor administrative offices and a few maritime history collections.

There was no damage to the interior or to museum pieces because plywood under the copper roof remained in place.

"This is when you feel grateful for insurance," Lent said.

The museum was expected to reopen Friday.

CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said trees and branches falling on power lines caused most of Thursday's power outages.

A total of 22 utility poles broke during the windstorm.

The number of CMP customers who lost electricity peaked at 44,000 around noon. Over the course of the day, 94,000 customers lost power, Rice said.

Some of the hardest hit areas were on exposed coastal peninsulas.

More than 8,000 customers lost power in Lincoln County, the county that suffered the most outages Thursday. "We had winds in excess of 50 mph in some places," Rice said. "But we expect to get a good number of people back later tonight (Thursday)."

As of 10:30 p.m., just over 7,700 customers were without power. CMP said everyone should have their power back by Friday afternoon.

Wind gusts hit 54 mph in Augusta and 49 mph at the Portland International Jetport.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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