VIDEO

Rare Maine tornado touches down in Woolwich, first of 2012

Posted July 26, 2012, at 7:11 a.m.
Last modified July 26, 2012, at 7:36 p.m.

WOOLWICH, Maine — Maine’s first tornado of 2012 touched down in Woolwich on Tuesday, uprooting trees and blowing lawn furniture around but causing no major damage, according to the National Weather Service’s bureau in Gray.

Meteorologist Margaret Curtis said the tornado was rated an F-0, which is the lowest tornado classification on the Fujita Scale. It produced winds of 50-60 mph and measured about 20 yards wide by about two-tenths of a mile long. Curtis said the National Weather Service made those determinations by studying photos and videos provided by area residents. A meteorologist visited Woolwich, which is in southeastern Sagadahoc County, on Wednesday and determined from the damage pattern that the storm was in fact a tornado.

The twister touched down about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday near Jake’s Run and made its way through a mostly forested area to Trott Road before dying out.

Curtis said the transition between Tuesday’s muggy air and Wednesday’s drier weather bred perfect conditions for a tornado, though they are very rare in Maine. Curtis said the state averages one or two tornadoes per year and tornadoes in Maine usually are weak in comparison to the more powerful ones which can cause devastation in midwestern states. The rugged geography here as well as the influence of the ocean keeps the most severe summer weather at bay.

In 2011, there were several tornadoes documented in Maine, according to Curtis and previous stories in the Bangor Daily News. There was one in the Norway area and western Oxford County, a few in Somerset County, two near Gray and three in Aroostook County. There were also several other weak tornadolike storms across the state in 2011, but many of them were not confirmed as tornadoes.

“Tuesday was a super muggy day,” said Curtis. “If we are going to see anything like this in Maine, that’s usually when it happens. We need not only winds, but those super-sticky, hot days.”

Curtis said southern Maine likely would experience showers and possibly thunderstorms Thursday, but that the best potential in the Northeast for severe weather, including tornadoes, is in Massachusetts. Curtis recommended taking cover — ideally in a basement or a room without windows — in the event of a tornado, or even a severe thunderstorm.

“Enjoy it from the living room, not standing outside,” she said.

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