Area residents awake to downed trees, no power; Islesboro sustains heavy storm damage
It was a wild night for residents across the Midcoast Wednesday, as a fast moving thunderstorm struck the northern part of Knox County, and Lincolnville and Islesboro in Waldo County, just before 9 p.m.
Knox County EMA Director Ray Sisk said that the most damage occurred in Appleton, Hope, Camden and Rockport, but that nearly all Knox County towns, and Lincolnville and Islesboro, had multiple storm-related emergency responses.
On Islesboro, Public Safety Director Fred Porter has compiled information for the public about damage there, and said it is extensive. [Read his update with photos here.] Doug Hammond, an electrician with Justin Electric of Lincolnville, traveled to Islesboro on the ferry early Thursday morning and sent the following text message to his mother Barbara Hatch, “Middle island seems fine, but the Lincolnville side from the ferry terminal north got devastated and is without power. Trees down everywhere. Looks like it could be days until all power restored there.”
The Knox Regional Communications Center handled more than 90 emergency calls, and by 10:25 p.m. reported 45 open calls for service, with more coming in by the minute. For many first responders, rest didn’t come until the wee hours of the morning, after tree-blocked roads were made passable and downed wires had been moved into yards.
Sisk said the Knox EMA opened its emergency operations center and monitored the situation overnight. Sisk did not yet have information from the National Weather Service, but he said he knows of at least one 911 call reporting a tornado in Union or Appleton.
“The report can’t be corroborated locally, but we know the National Weather Service will be looking into that, among other things,” said Sisk.
The most serious injury from the storm was in Appleton, said Sisk, where a tree came down on an RV camper in Sennebec Campground, seriously injuring a man inside.
Appleton Fire Chief Dave Stone said Thursday morning that the worst of the damage in his town is at the campground.
“Sennebec Lake Campground, it’s basically been obliterated. We got trees through houses and campers and people going to the hospital. I’m heading back down there now to see what else I can find,” said Stone. “I don’t know the name of the man injured last night, but he was hurt really bad and I’m not sure if he’s going to make it or not, but I haven’t gotten any updates either.”
The injured man, and his wife, who was just shaken up, was reportedly in the sleeper of the camper when a tree came down and pinned him inside. The man and his wife are seasonal residents at the campground who live in their RV and travel between Maine and Florida. Their van was also destroyed in the storm by the fallen tree.
The man was initially taken by ambulance to Maine General Medical Center in Augusta, where he was stabilized and then transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland. The man is reportedly doing well, and is expected to survive his injuries.
Sisk said response to help the man in Appleton was slowed because of downed, live wires, which prevented firefighters and EMTs from getting to him — except on foot and crossing downed lines — until the power could be shut off.
At around 9:15, due to both the sheer volume of calls and the emergency rescue underway in Appleton, KRCC made a request to Central Maine Power to shut down power to many of the affected towns. Within minutes of that request, Camden went dark, as did Hope, Appleton and others.
In Hope, Fire Chief Clarence Keller said a downed line on Buzzell Hill Road ignited a small woods fire. As soon as the power was cut, the fire was easily put out, but a recharging of the line around 6:30 a.m., when Camden was called to a structure fire on Route 105, the downed line started igniting again. Union Fire was called to assist Hope with that call Thursday morning, as many of Hope’s units were en route, and already on the scene, providing mutual to Camden, along with Lincolnville and Rockport fire departments.
After putting out the fire on Route 105, which was caused by a generator placed too close to a building, Camden Fire Chief Chris Farley listed the streets in his town on which they had downed trees from the storm.
“We got calls from Mountain Street, Park, Norwood Avenue, Washington Street, Bog Bridge on Route 105, Eaton Avenue and Route 1, almost the Lincolnville,” said Farley. “And in the midst we had four alarm calls at Quarry Hill.”
The tree on Route 1 totally blocked the road, which had to remain closed for several hours.
Many of the downed trees in Camden, and elsewhere, also tore electric service connections to residences while also bringing down copious amounts of power, telephone and cable lines.
As for what to do about downed trees on private property, Farley said it’s the town’s job to clear the roads, and CMP’s job to remove and untangle their wires from the trees.
“After that, it’s the property owner’s responsibility to deal with the downed tree,” said Farley.
Down on the peninsula, a fire on Friendship Long Island was reportedly caused by a lightning strike, said Sisk. Friendship firefighters had to travel to the island by boat to put out the fire.
During the early morning hours Thursday, more than 6,000 Knox County CMP customers were without power. By 5 a.m., that number had been reduced to 4,600. As of 10:30, 3,563 customers still don’t have power.
Camden has the most customers (1,411) still without power late Thursday morning, followed by Hope (939), Union (926), Appleton (185), Rockport (86), Warren (11), South Thomaston (4) and Washington (1).
Sisk said that residents out surveying damage should be reminded that downed power lines are never safe to touch.
“You just don’t know if someone has a pirate generator hooked up, and it can be feeding back to that downed line,” said Sisk.
Farley also urged resident to remain inside during storms like the one that passed through Wednesday night.
“When a storm like this comes through, I know curiousity gets going, but they are better off staying in their house when trees and wires are down,” said Farley.
The National Weather Service Thursday is predicting the possiblity of more rain and thunderstorms, especially later in the day. Those storms could bring more heavy wind, large hail and heavy rainfall.
Editorial Director Holly S. Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-6655.