Maine Maritime Museum battens down hatches after raging gale rips roof away

Posted Feb. 01, 2013, at 12:11 p.m.

BATH, Maine — One of the perils of a life at sea is the destructive force of the wind. At Maine Maritime Museum, which celebrates steadfast ingenuity in the face of nature’s might, that lesson demonstrated itself Thursday when a shrieking gale ripped off portions of the roof.

Museum Executive Director Amy Lent said winds topping 60 miles per hour pulled up the copper roof on two large sections of the museum’s main building, leaving them in crumpled masses on the ground. There were no injuries and no artifacts were damaged despite some rain leaking inside the building.

Dave Garrison, spokesman for the museum, said an employee was making her way from her car to the main entrance when it happened.

“She was approaching the building when the roof started coming off,” said Garrison. “She retreated back to her car. There was a quite a ruckus, and a lot of things were blowing around. The wind was pretty high.”

Eric Schwibs, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gray, said a weather monitoring device in Bath recorded gusts of 63 mph just before 8 a.m. Thursday, which he said was stronger than coastal Maine has seen in quite some time. On Matinicus Rock off the coast of Rockland, there was a gust of 74 mph Thursday morning, which topped the strongest gusts produced by the remnants of Hurricane Sandy on October 29, which peaked at 63 mph.

Lent said there was “minimal leaking” through the museum’s roof, despite a brief period of heavy rain that followed the heavy wind. The portion of damaged roof is primarily above the museum’s third-floor administrative offices. Artifacts and collections that were in that area were removed unharmed and some of the stacks in the museum’s library will remain covered until the roof is repaired, as a precaution.

Garrison said a local roofing crew who was called to the scene Thursday morning discovered that because of past leaks in the copper-clad roof, the plywood understructure was rotted in places, which the roofer said contributed to the damage to the roof. Garrison said the contractor and engineers are exploring whether a new roofing system is appropriate for the entire Museum History Building in order to stand up to future gusts. As a temporary measure, black tarplike material has been installed over the damaged portions. The repairs will likely be covered by the museum’s insurance policy.

The museum was set to open at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, but was closed while the damage was assessed. Garrison said the museum reopened Friday morning, and that no programs or events were interrupted.

Maine Maritime Museum consists of the main Museum History Building, which was built in 1988, and several more-than-century-old outbuildings that were once part of the Percy & Small Shipyard. Some of those buildings have seen substantial maintenance in recent years, including roof work.

“The historic buildings held up pretty well,” said Garrison.

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