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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Maine Twisters; Downeast Tornadoes

There's been a lot of talk about tornadoes here in the great state of Maine recently, and the rumor is that either it's a new phenomenon, or they're on the rise because of the bogus global warming fairy tale. Neither one is true, of course, we've always had them. I've seen one or two myself back in the day. But the recent news does go along with my own personal mantra that anything can happen, anytime, anyplace. And that usually gets us hurt because we fail to prepare for it.

Here are a few tips from the Maine Emergency Management Agency;

What to Look For… Environmental Clues:

Tornadoes often occur with very little advance warning. The best way to be prepared is to stay tuned to television and radio for emergency messages from the National Weather Service. NWS messages may give as little as 5-10 minutes warning before a tornado forms. Be alert for:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Wall cloud
  • Large hail
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train

Some tornadoes appear as a visible funnel extending only partially to the ground. Some are clearly visible while other are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds

Tornado Safety:

At the earliest warning, go into a below ground areas at the earliest warning with flashlights and a radio and to remain there until informed that tornado danger has passed. Manufactured (mobile) homes are especially vulnerable and mobile home residents are urged to evacuate to the nearest frame home with a basement.

If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.

  • Stay away from windows.
  • Get out of automobiles. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately.
  • If caught outside or in a vehicle, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression.

We average 2 tornadoes a year up here in the great state of Maine, but they're usually over uninhabited territory and so go unreported for the most part. However, as the population grows and expands into these areas more people naturally see them and so it may seem as though they are increasing. I remember one statistic from doing some research a good many years ago that stated there were something like ten or so reported in one year, but I can't remember where I read it. It wasn't directly related to what I was doing so didn't save the story. And yes, this was from before the days of laptops and home computers and the ability to keep the contents of the New York library in your pocket.

But recent articles do suggest that this year may well be a record breaking year for them, at least for the southern section of the state, so it would be wise to look at the weather with a heightened sense of involvement this time of the year. Usually we pass over a lot of information as it is summer, what could happen beyond a thunderstorm? Don't fall prey to the illusion that all is calm. It isn't, and this past few days shows that there can indeed be some cyclone action where one would least expect it.

Just yesterday there were reports that a funnel cloud touched down near the Brighton Hill road area of Minot. Friday a tornado ripped through the Paris area of Oxford county, according to WMTW: The storm cut a path 16 miles long and as wide as 700 yards through the towns of Norway, Paris, Buckfield, Sumner and Hartford. With winds between 100 and 110 miles per hour, it rates an EF-1 on the enhanced fugita scale. A great slide show can be found here of the damage. A few days ago we had reports of a funnel cloud or clouds touching down up in the area of Shin Pond in Penobscot county. Supposedly we have at least 6 confirmed reports thus far in 2010.

I'd suggest we all pay closer attention to what is happening around us, and keep an eye to the sky as we prepare and plan for tomorrow. But today, it looks like more of the same type of storms coming that make for ideal tornado conditions are on the way.


  1. Here in NY state we had a few storms called "microbursts" which are also considered unusual, but now when I see a bunch of trees along the side of the highway twised and broke from hitting other trees, we still get these storm twisters that bounce down and right back up. Sometimes, like on my grandmothers street.The limbs and power lines were down and you could follow the damage where it had touched down on part of the main street and gravitated down (her street dipped off the main one) and finally ended up someplace in the woods before dissipating (or bouncing back up).
    I have had a few of the older locals say we had maybe a couple twisters, in NY but nothing that ever lasted for very long. A tornado did hit NY city once coming up the coast and I believe started to loose power as it started towards Maine. (Thinking 1960s?) I remember a magazine doing a photo shoot of it..(Life Magazine?)

    Its sometimes good to know what others are going through in other states. Thanks for the great article.

  2. Im glad you mention tornadoes. I have experienced them while living several years in Texas, and there were no cellars on 99% of the homes because of sink hole rock. Most people watch for them. Sometimes you see more than one and they might touch ground for a minute and then go back up. The locals called them twisters, but the local airports and large military base would report none spotted on radar. One TV report that a mans car was missing from his driveway right after the passing of the storm, but the next day it was found in a field with barb wire all the way around except (the gate several miles) on the farthest side from where the home owner lived. The car had no visible damage right off, but it would have taken someone way out of their way just to leave a car in a cow field. No tracks found in the rain soaked soil..But Airborne the car was about 3/4 mile from the owners home. The car had to be towed out of the field.

    Though I learned to take them in stride and even while driving in Houston, we passed (small to the locals) a visible medium sized twister..As long as it was paralleling the highway and moving away..People kept driving in the downpour as if it were a normal day. My eyes were riveted on this as I know they can suddenly change direction or bounce up and land down again. Visually I would guess it was a half to 3/4 mile away, but heavy traffic kept moving, like a regular day.
    A few years before that, we lived in a trailer park waiting for on post housing. My daughter and I ended up huddled under our kitchen table holding on because the table kept trying to bounce away from us, while watching the fridge slam up and down against the ceiling and floor and finally some dishes flying out of the cupboard. The free standing cemented in deck (and a miracle) on the front of our not tied down mobile home kept it from flipping over. It was about two to three minutes of shock value, but neighbors ran over after it passing to see if we were okay even though it was still pouring rain. (Our neighbors said they watched our trailer buck like a bronco, and they expected it to be torn to shreds but not even a broken window) All I could think is..Heavy furniture and much glass in living room. Bedroom more heavy furniture and no exit door, or if the trailer went over how badly cut or indured would we be? And usually the ends of a mobile home at the very least get ripped off (I thought ours was tied down also). So we stuck middle ground. The twister was moving in a gradual zig zag with the main twister staying firm to the ground with other smaller ones going up and down next to it..The electric streaks running to the tornado that passed and as far back as behind my home were like something from a science fiction movie. There was an electrical fire at the pole across the street from my house with lines hanging in trees. The twister took the roof off the cement building (daycare) a block before my house, and bounced up, and landed down just beyond the mobil/modular homes across from me and ripped off the ends or carports of the next 6 homes. Mine and three others near me made it practically untouched, except my skirting fell off to the ground. You could see where the home was sitting on stacked bricks and no tie downs.
    The neighbor lady, also a military family hugged me and said I must have a guardian angel. Then we took off to her house and waited out the rest of the storm. We watched out the window as this dark column moved..stood then moved further along a couple miles till it was out of our view.

    It finally turned and hit the main street in town next to our military post and did structural damage to buildings before cutting through and ending up crossing open fields, where no damage was reported, so the trail ended there.


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