Microburst cuts damaging swath through Falmouth

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FALMOUTH — A wind and rain storm that ran through town on Wednesday afternoon was probably a microburst, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm brought down trees and and utility poles, and trapped a man in his truck for a short time.

A microburst – a sudden, powerful, localized air current, especially a downdraft – can cause as much destruction as a tornado, according to Accuweather.com.

In Falmouth, the storm knocked down trees and utility poles in the area between Fundy, Depot and Foreside roads, cutting power to about 1,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers shortly after 2:30 p.m.

According to meteorologist Eric Schwibs of the NWS, microbursts are common during the summer. He said after it hit Falmouth, the microburst dissolved and became simple rain showers.

“They become severe, (but then) lose their punch and fall apart,” Schwibs said.

Police Lt. John Kilbride said the stretch of Depot Road between U.S. Route 1 and Foreside Road suffered the greatest amount of damage, with four poles and a couple of trees knocked down. He said no one was hurt in the storm, and it did not appear that any homes suffered damage.

Chris Burner of Falmouth was driving his pickup truck on Depot Road when the storm hit. He said “everything was just a blur” and he saw one of the poles farther up the road snap, which caused a chain reaction of falling poles.

Burner’s truck, which he said he has only had for a week and a half, suffered a little damage, but he was unharmed. He was trapped in his truck for about 25 minutes, Kilbride said, because there power lines had fallen on it. Kilbride said Burner had to wait for Central Maine Power to de-energize the lines.

“I’m glad I wasn’t a little further up (the road),” Burner said while fire and police crews were still on the scene, adding that the whole event felt like it happened in slow motion.

Nearby streets saw damage as a result of the microburst, too.

On Old Mill Road, resident Emily McMaster said she was sitting inside when she saw “a big green thing” go by outside the window. She said at first she didn’t think anything was really happening, but when she lost power she went outside and saw a tree had fallen on her parked car.

“I came out and started screaming my damn head off,” McMaster said.

Skillins Greenhouses, which has a location on Foreside Road, was also damaged by the storm. Co-owner Mike Skillins on Thursday said the microburst blew out southern facing windows in the nursery and created air pressure on the first floor, damaging a suspended ceiling. The building was occupied at the time of the microburst, but Skillins said no one was hurt.

Skillins said the damage was substantial, and for now they can’t occupy the building. He said they are still able to serve customers outside and can process payments across the street. Skillins said he was not sure what the cost of the damage was, and they were currently working to clean up the area. He said repairs likely wouldn’t begin until after the Fourth of July.

“We knew there was a thunder storm upon us, but the microburst came out of nowhere,” Skillins said.

Public Works Director Jay Reynolds, on the scene at Depot Road, said his office received a large number of phone calls about the storm. On Thursday, Reynolds said all roads were back open.

Kilbride said he estimated the damage to be in the multiple thousands of dollars for replacing the poles. No other roads were closed as a result of the storm. Central Maine Power Co. was working late Wednesday afternoon to replace them.

CMP representative Gail Rice on Thursday said about 1,000 customers in Falmouth lost power because of the microburst, but power was restored by the early morning hours on Thursday. She said about 1,100 customers in Westbrook were also affected for about an hour when a tree came in contact with power lines Wednesday afternoon.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

A storm believed to be a microburst brought down four utility poles and a handful of trees on Depot Road between U.S. Route 1 and Foreside Road in Falmouth on Wednesday afternoon, June 29. Police said no one was hurt. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

The National Weather Service said the storm that hit Falmouth was likely a microburst, which is a sudden, powerful, localized air current that can cause major damage. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

Crews from the Falmouth Police Department, Fire-EMS Department and Public Works respond to damage on Depot Road caused by a storm on June 29. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

A car on Old Mill Road suffered damage after trees fell on it during the microburst storm on June 29. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

While it damaged the car, the tree missed the homes on the street, but other trees and branches were tangled in the nearby power lines. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

Portions of Depot and Foreside roads were closed as crews were on scene. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

The National Weather Service says microbursts, which become severe quickly before dissolving, are common during the summer months. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

A large tree on Fundy Road snapped during the June 29 microburst. Despite its size, the tree only damaged a picnic table. (Colin Ellis / The Forecaster)

The dots on this map indicate areas that saw damage as a result of the June 29 storm, which the National Weather Service says was likely a microburst.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.