CARIBOU, Maine — High winds during an intense Monday evening thunderstorm destroyed buildings and uprooted trees in Limestone, with damages also reported in other central Aroostook areas. No injuries were reported.
The Caribou office of the National Weather Service is sending out a team of meteorologists this afternoon to determine whether the storm was a tornado or another extreme wind event.
The majority of the destruction in Limestone was on Bog Road. Jim Leighton, the assistant chief at the Limestone Fire Department, was first on the scene, and described it as being unlike anything he’d seen before. He said the wind had shorn most of a storage facility and mechanic’s shop from its foundation, and obliterated the roof of another nearby structure.
This was especially shocking because the 911 call, which came in at around 6:45, was a report of a downed power line.
“I just stopped in the middle of the road and I’m sure my face just dropped — there’s a building in the middle of the road,” Leighton said.
The wind had tossed huge chunks of debris dozens of yards from the buildings it destroyed into the road and neighbors’ property. While Leighton said no homes on Bog Road were damaged as far as he could tell, a block south on Noyes Road, the winds knocked two trees onto Kelly and George Belford’s house.
They had been finishing dinner when the storm intensified. Looking out the window, Kelly Belford said she watched a tree try to “turn itself,” in her yard, twisting in the wind.
“The wind and the rain were swirling, and I’ve never seen wind and rain swirl — it was literally going in a circular motion,” Belford said.
She said the rain was suddenly so strong that she couldn’t see far enough to make out a funnel, if there was one. Then four trees in her yard uprooted themselves, two of them falling on her house and knocking out her power.
Crews were working the following morning to remove the trees from Belford’s house. She said she didn’t know how profound the damage was yet, but that water had been leaking through her ceiling and into the living space through the night.
She and her husband have started a GoFundMe account, and Belton said that they were going to have to take from savings for her husband’s back surgery to pay for the damage to their home and yard.
The investigative team from the National Weather Service is looking into the destruction in Limestone as well as reports of high-speed wind damage in Washburn, Castle Hill and Caswell, Priscilla Farrar, a meteorologist with NWS said. She estimated that once the group is able to survey the downed trees and building damage, they will be able to determine the cause relatively quickly, within the next day or two.