An eagle is transported to safety in a dog create from a Pelletier Island property after it was injured during a Tuesday, July 12, storm. The eagle later died. Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Fortin

PELLETIER ISLAND, Maine — Work to repair damage is still underway after a powerful thunderstorm rolled over Pelletier Island in northern Aroostook County last Tuesday.

The island of about 100 residential and seasonal properties located on Long Lake and surrounded by the towns of St. Agatha and Madawaska was struck by a microburst, which substantially damaged at least 10 properties. No people were injured, but a baby eagle was rescued from its nest beneath fallen debris.

Hundreds of trees were destroyed and docks were left floating upside down in Long Lake during the storm. A resident’s pontoon boat flipped over and was found at least 100 yards away from where it originally rested, while one man building a house on the island saw a wall of his garage completely caved in, Pelletier Island Association President John Mazo said.

Just last year, a microburst with winds exceeding 100 miles per hour struck an area from Castle Hill north and destroyed buildings in Limestone. The winds in a microburst don’t rotate or form a tunnel.

Damage from a microburst.
The aftermath of a July 12 storm saw trees downed and boat docks flipped over along Pelletier Island. Credit: Courtesy of Aroostook Unmanned Aerial Services

“Microbursts, also called downbursts, are powerful, localized columns of wind that occur when cooled air drops from the base of a thunderstorm at incredible speeds — up to 60 mph — and subsequently hits the ground, spreading out in all directions,” according to

Andrew Marquis of Marquis Tree Service in St. Agatha was commissioned by several island residents to clean up trees felled by the storm on their properties.

He initially surveyed the scene the night of the storm to ensure his clients were safe, and noted the extensive damage that befell the island.

“It was quite a scene, to be honest,” Marquis said.

Along with removing fallen trees from atop buildings and cleaning up those shattered at the roots, Marquis and his crew used heavy rigging winches to assist in righting some overturned boat docks.

Rachel Fortin and her family, including husband Scott Fortin, their two sons, ages 12 and 10, and three dogs, were at their summer home on the Madawaska side of Pelletier Island when the storm hit.

“I saw the clouds on the St. Agatha side and knew we were going to get hit hard. I just didn’t realize we were going to get hit that hard,” Fortin said.

At the Fortins’ property, the storm downed 39 trees, damaged the camp structure, flattened an ice fishing cabin and ruined all their outdoor furniture.

As the storm died down, residents’ first priority was to ensure the safety of their neighbors.

“Everyone checked on each other; it was a very scary event,” Rachel Fortin said.

Also on the Fortin property was an eagles’ nest with two baby birds. Concerned for the eagles, Fortin contacted Inland Fisheries and Wildlife the next morning, and Game Warden Ed Christie responded to the scene.

Meanwhile, Scott Fortin and some neighbors took out chainsaws and tractors to cut through debris in an attempt to find the fallen eagle’s nest.

The effort ultimately proved successful when Christie located the birds.

“There were so many twisted trees he had to crawl through. An eagle popped its head up, and he shouted, ‘There’s a baby and it’s alive,’” Fortin said.

The other baby eagle was found dead. Due to its condition, Fortin said it likely died before the storm.

The surviving eagle was ultimately transported in a Fortin family dog crate to Avian Haven, a hospital for wild birds and turtles in Freedom, where Fortin said it was recovering from a broken wing.

The Pelletier Island community and Christie weren’t the only ones concerned for the eagle’s well-being.

“The next morning we saw the mom and dad looking for the baby. They’ve been coming around once in a while,” Fortin said.

Despite the property damage, the residents of Pelletier Island escaped worse possible outcomes that could have resulted from the storm, Fortin said.

“It was pretty scary for the kids mostly, just seeing everything happen,” she said. “You can replace material things; you can’t replace family and animals.”