— By

Staff Writer

Two storms marched through Maine throughout Thursday and into the night, bringing high winds, flooding basements, knocking out power — and giving frustrated snowboarders, skiers and snowmobilers cause for celebration.

Coastal counties and other low elevations received as much as 7 inches of rain, which pushed rivers past flood stage and swamped some roads.

Wind gusts as strong as 62 mph knocked trees onto utility lines and knocked out power for thousands late Thursday night.

At 10:30 p.m., more than 16,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers were without power — up from the 10,000 two hours earlier. The hardest hit county was York, with more than 6,600 reported outages. Cumberland County was second with more than 2,200 outages.

Eric Sinsabaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the strongest winds swept into southern Maine late Thursday night and were expected to subside after midnight. Wave heights recorded at a buoy just outside of Portland Harbor reached 28 feet Thursday night.

The Machigonne II, which serves as the Casco Bay Island Transit District’s car ferry, was being moved to a calmer berth.

Nicholas Mavodones, the District’s Operation’s Manager, said a crew of four was taking the ferry to Peaks Island because powerful waves buffeting the 122-foot-long threatened to damage the vessel. No passengers were on board.

The weather service issued flood warnings from Waldo County to York County, where rivers and streams were expected to overflow and roads were in danger of washing out.

”If it was four or five degrees colder, we’d be hip deep in snow right now,” said Tom Hawley, another meteorologist for the weather service.

Elevations above 1,000 feet did get a blast of snow, which was fine with Tricia Johnson, general manager of the Mount Abram ski area in Greenwood.

”It’s awesome,” she said after seeing 8 inches of fresh snow at the summit by midafternoon.

Snow sports lovers have endured a tough month, as rain and warm temperatures have eaten away at the snowpack. Maine’s last major snowstorm was in mid-January.

This week, Maine’s western mountains are expected to get 2 feet of snow or more, according to the weather service. Elsewhere, it’s a different story.

The Presumpscot River in Westbrook was past flood stage by midafternoon Thursday and was expected to crest at 24 feet, almost the level of the Patriots Day storm of 2007.

In Lincoln County, several roads were closed or down to one lane. Ice jams blocked a culvert on Lewis Hill Road in Newcastle, making it impassable, and a portion of Old County Road in Waldoboro washed out.

There were several inches of water in Camp Ellis in Saco, and a few roads in York were temporarily closed Thursday, said Steve Harding, of the York County Emergency Management Agency.

The storms Wednesday and Thursday were produced by extremely low pressure in the upper atmosphere that sucked moisture off the ocean and brought the gusty winds.

The low pressure is expected to stall over the region through the weekend, keeping the moisture coming until Monday.

Staff Writers Dennis Hoey and Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

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