June 18, 2018
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Fleet line of storms thrashes boaters, knocks out power

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Bill Trotter and Dawn Gagnon, Special to the BDN

BANGOR, Maine — A quick-moving line of thunderstorms blew through Maine on Friday, catching boaters off guard, knocking out power to more than 6,000 homes, and blowing down a couple of vendor tents at the Bangor State Fair.

Despite the havoc the wind and rain wreaked as they raced through the state, the wild weather resulted in no serious injuries or major damage.

“We had a good line of thunder and shower storms that really raced through the area,” Hendricus Lulofs, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Caribou, said Friday.

“They weren’t technically severe storms, but they had a kick to them,” he said.

According to Lulofs, the storms brought wind gusts of 40 to 45 mph and possibly some small-sized hail, though he said that the NWS received no reports of hail.

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The storms that swept through Maine were caused by a cool front that brought a leading edge of cooler air from the province of Quebec south into the Greenville-Sebec area, where the storms kicked up from about 11 a.m. through noon, Lulofs said.

The windy weather then moved southeast, blowing through Penobscot County between 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. before heading east toward Washington and Hancock counties about 2 p.m., he said.

By 3 p.m., the line of storms had raced out of Maine and into New Brunswick, he said, though he added that heavy winds and thunder were expected to linger in parts of Aroostook County from Houlton to Clayton Lake until evening.

Some of the most dramatic effects of Friday’s intense weather were seen in Hancock County, where squalls were blamed for getting boaters in trouble in Lamoine, Hancock and Gouldsboro, all about the same time.

Two adult sisters were kayaking off Lamoine Beach when the squall blew up around 2:20 p.m., blowing them away from shore. Bystanders on the beach who saw the kayakers and recognized the intensifying weather decided to call for help before the situation got worse.

The Lamoine Fire Department responded with a couple of boats and, after the sudden squall quickly passed, were able to get kayakers Nancy Laura Joseph and Paula Phillips safely back to shore.

Shaun Donovan, a Lamoine resident who saw the kayakers and called 911, said he was worried the kayaks might capsize.

“I don’t care who you are,” Donovan said. “If you get caught up in 30-knot winds, all you can do is give up and hope you get blown toward shore.”

In a quick interview after being brought ashore, Joseph of Palm Desert, Calif., said she and her sister had traveled from Phillips’ home in Boston to Hancock County for a vacation. They had gone for a kayak ride in Frenchman Bay on what seemed like a nice, summer day when the weather suddenly turned ugly, she said.

Joseph said neither she nor her sister capsized, but the wind prompted them to seek shelter near a mussel aquaculture raft. But she became concerned about the raft’s thrashing and decided to get away from it. The wind soon died down and the pair was brought back to shore minutes later.

“It just came up so quick,” Joseph said of the wind.

Ralph Pinkham, Hancock County’s emergency management director, drove down to the beach to check on the situation. He said the county received a handful of reports of boaters in trouble, but that everybody was able to get back to shore safely.

“It was just a little, freak squall,” Pinkham said. “They’re the most dangerous because they are unexpected.”

In Gouldsboro, a small sailboat capsized in the sudden stiff wind near Bunkers Harbor. The sailors were close to shore and were able to reach land unharmed and without much trouble. A group of kayakers caught in the wind off the east side of Hancock Point also made it back to shore safely.

The wind knocked out electrical service to more than 6,200 Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. customers in Penobscot, Lincoln and Piscataquis counties, spokeswoman Susan Falloon said.

Central Maine Power Co. also had outages, though those were scattered and isolated, a spokesman said.

The winds led to several small fires and downed trees.

In Waldo County, a county dispatcher said several power lines were knocked down by trees and branches, causing at least three small fires in Northport, Burnham and Unity.

The scene in Penobscot County was similar, according to dispatchers for the city of Bangor, the county’s regional communications center and the state police barracks in Orono.

Bass Park Director Mike Dyer said the storm came through Bangor before the Bangor State Fair gates opened, so fairgoers weren’t affected.

He did say, however, that the wind blew down a couple of small vendor tents and blew the flaps off the agricultural show tent.

Bangor Daily News writer Dan MacLeod contributed to this report.

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