June 19, 2018
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Despite tornadoes, federal disaster assistance elusive in Aroostook County

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

CARIBOU, Maine — Despite significant damage caused by three tornadoes that hit the area earlier this month, Aroostook County has yet to hit the cost threshold needed to receive federal disaster assistance.

The County needs at least $1.65 million in damage to receive full disaster aid, according to Vern Ouellette, director of the Aroostook County Emergency Management Agency.

Ouellette, who has been touring the region to assess damage caused when the tornadoes touched down on June 8 and 9, said estimates are close to $1 million to date.

The Aroostook EMA director traveled to Augusta last week to speak to other emergency management officials to see if any damage elsewhere in the state from the high winds and heavy rains over the same time period could be documented with The County claim. Although there was some damage reported elsewhere, Ouellette said it still wasn’t enough to meet federal requirements.

The three tornadoes in Aroostook accompanied severe thunderstorms and high winds that downed trees and caused power outages through parts of northern and eastern Maine.

No injuries or fatalities were reported in connection with the tornadoes.

The first tornado struck at 6:22 p.m. on June 8 about a mile east-southeast of Little Madawaska Lake and bounced along the ground a total of about 10 miles before ending about four miles northwest of the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, according to the National Weather Service office in Caribou.

Another tornado touched down nearly an hour and a half later about seven miles northeast of Ashland. Its path was about 50 yards wide and a quarter-mile long with damage limited to trees.

The tornado that touched down June 9 struck two miles northeast of Fort Fairfield. It reportedly struck at about 4:10 p.m. with winds between 65 and 85 mph and also gouged a path about 50 yards wide over a quarter mile.

In all, 20 communities received at least some damage, such as downed trees and power lines, damage to roofs and landscaping, and washed-out roads, Ouellette said. The city of Caribou had the most damage, estimated at about $400,000.

A number of ATV trails also were affected. Some remain pockmarked by sinkholes.

Ouellette said he doesn’t believe there is any state money to help with repairs.

Officials are continuing to document damage and discuss options.

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