High winds cause power outages in five Maine counties

Posted March 18, 2011, at 4:49 p.m.
Last modified March 19, 2011, at 4:50 p.m.

Strong gusts of wind caused numerous power outages Friday afternoon in parts of Piscataquis, Penobscot, Hancock, Washington and Somerset counties, and ignited ashes that destroyed a hay trailer on the River Road in Sebec.

Wind guests of 40 to 45 mph were recorded in the area, according to Maureen Hastings, a National Weather Service forecaster in Caribou. The wind subsided in most places by early evening.

The wind also knocked the top of a tree onto a passing car in Washington County, but no one was injured.

More than 2,000 Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. customers were still without power Saturday morning, Susan Faloon, company spokeswoman, said in a statement about 11 a.m., but by late afternoon Saturday the number was down to just 385.  Faloon said in a statement that progress was slow but steady Saturday afternoon, and the remaining outages were scattered across Penobscot County.

At 9 p.m. Friday, Central Maine Power Co. had an estimated 6,400 customers out of power systemwide, a spokeswoman said Friday night. Of those, 613 were in Piscataquis County and 1,974 in Somerset County.

Bangor Hydro had about 10,881 outages late Friday afternoon, according to Faloon. The bulk of those outages, nearly 5,700, were in northern Penobscot and Piscataquis counties. Central and southern Penobscot county had nearly 3,000 customers without power, while Hancock County was showing almost 2,200 and Washington County had 16 customers out.

In Dover-Foxcroft, the winds on Friday rekindled some ashes left behind from a permitted demolition project at Varnum Farms on the River Road, according to Dover-Foxcroft Fire Chief Joe Guyotte. Workers had been demolishing some of the unused and dilapidated barns. One of the workers was busy about 100 yards away on the property when a passing motorist hollered that the fire had ignited in a debris pile, he said. The fire jumped to a building where equipment and a hay trailer full of hay were stored.

As firefighters worked to extinguish the flames, the metal roofing over the buildings flapped in the wind.

Guyotte credited the efforts of Dover-Foxcroft, Sebec and Guilford firefighters, who worked quickly to remove the trailer and managed to save the two buildings. The hay wagon was destroyed.

Five wind-related problems that occurred within a roughly two-hour period Friday afternoon kept Hampden public safety officials scrambling.

Most of the calls for assistance involved downed trees and limbs and sparking electrical transformers, one of which ignited a tree on Meadow Road, Hampden police Sgt. Chris Bailey said Friday. The tree fire, however, went out on its own when the power cut out, he confirmed.

In a close call, an Etna motorist escaped injury when a tree fell on his 1995 Ford pickup while he was driving on Route 69. Neither the driver, 35-year-old Cory Thibodeau of Eddington, nor his passenger, whose name was not immediately, available was injured. Thibodeau’s truck, however, had major damage.

Stiff winds also buffeted Washington County all day, toppling trees at Indian Township, Whiting, Cherryfield and Meddybemps.

Firefighters were sent to Route 192 in Wesley around 3 p.m. after the top of an evergreen tree snapped off and fell on top of a passing car.

The car was heavily damaged and its windows shattered but no one was injured, according to the Washington County Regional Communications Center.

In Enfield in northern Penobscot County, Howland Fire Department firefighters responded to a downed utility line near Route 188. No injuries were reported, officials said.

Off the coast at Lamoine and Hancock Point in Hancock County, the U.S. Coast Guard was conducting a precautionary search all Friday afternoon after a kite of the kind that would be used on a surfboard was found in the water. Coast Guard officials said they believed the kite blew into the sea from shore but they were searching anyway and calling for a Coast Guard helicopter to assist.

BDN writers Sharon Kiley Mack in Machias, Nick Sambides Jr. in Lincoln and Dawn Gagnon in Bangor contributed to this report.

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