WATERVILLE – A passenger van carrying several riders was stuck under live power lines for about an hour Friday after a strong storm swept through central Maine, toppling trees and dropping several inches of rain in just minutes.

About 4:15 p.m., the skies went dark, the wind picked up and heavy rain fell. Police radio traffic spiked with reports of lightning strikes, golf-ball-size hail and wind damage.

On Abbott Street, the Kennebec Explorer van got trapped after a nearby maple tree was hit by lightning and fell across the road, pulling down utility lines. Inside, about five passengers were unharmed while rescuers and police blocked the road and waited for Central Maine Power Co. workers.

Todd Dostie of 20 Abbott St. was at home when the lightning hit his tree.

“All I could see was a white flash and I heard the crack,” Dostie said after the rain subsided.

Outside, neighbors surveyed scorch marks on the tree and other areas of damage from several downed trees along the street.

Throughout Maine, more than 5,000 customers in eight counties were without power after several localized storms roared through the state. In Kennebec County, more than 1,600 customers were without power. In Waterville, the total was nearly 1,000.

In many parts of central Maine, storm sewers overflowed. In Fairfield, under the train trestle on upper Main Street, a car floated in several feet of standing water.

In the Elm Plaza in Waterville, people used buckets to bail water out of their parked cars.

Chris Kimble, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, estimated that 2 to 3 inches of rain fell in about an hour, and wind between 60 and 70 mph blew through the area.

For several hours into the evening, fire departments, public works departments and utility companies worked to open roads and restore service throughout the region.

Waterville Police Sgt. Daniel Ames said it wasn’t the worst storm he’s seen in town. “But it was a pretty good one. We got a lot of water in a very short amount of time,” he said.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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