Jason Murchison of Presque Isle saws off limbs on a fallen evergreen at a Main Street apartment house he and his wife, Rachel, own. The wind and rain storm affected the entire state. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The night before Christmas Eve saw plenty of stirring as powerful winds blew down trees and caused power outages in Aroostook County.

Emergency and utility crews were out in force throughout the region Friday night and through the early hours into Saturday morning.

The intense winter storm, fueled by cold air sweeping down from Canada, wreaked havoc statewide, with Portland the first to feel its effects. The National Weather Service issued high-wind warnings statewide, and emergency responders urged motorists, if they must travel, to do so with extreme caution. Before 7 p.m. on Dec. 23, 33,966 Versant Power customers and 202,945 Central Maine Power customers were without power.

Sleet during the day Friday gave way to heavy rain as winds picked up. The County’s highest wind gusts were 44 mph in Presque Isle around 5 and 6 p.m., 51 in Houlton around 5 p.m., 58 in Caribou at approximately 6 p.m., and 72 mph at about 11 p.m. in Frenchville, according to the National Weather Service’s Caribou office.

Part of the siding along the roof of the Sargent Family Community Center in Presque Isle was sheared off by high winds during the Dec. 23 storm that lasted into the early hours of Dec. 24. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

In Presque Isle, power went out from about 8 to 10 p.m., and then again from around midnight to 2:30 a.m. Local ambulance and fire crews, police and utility workers tended to traffic incidents, fallen trees and other situations fueled by darkness and wind.

“Our partners at Versant Power report over 71,800 customers without power as of 1:51 a.m.,” the Aroostook Emergency Management Agency reported. “Eastern Maine Power Cooperative, 3,989 customers. The entire Houlton Power & Water grid has no power.”

Warming centers were set up at the Houlton Recreation Center and the Limestone Fire Department, the agency said. Flash freezes occurred as temperatures fell from about 40 degrees to the low and mid-20s.

Saturday morning brought sun and light winds. Throughout Presque Isle, limbs and branches of all sizes were scattered everywhere. A strip of siding along the roof of the Sargent Family Community Center had been sheared. A tree rested on the roof of a house on Harris Street.

On Main Street, Rachel and Jason Murchison worked to cut up a tree that had fallen near an apartment house they own.

The intense wind and rain storm on Dec. 23 and 24 blew over trees and caused numerous power outages throughout Aroostook County. In Presque Isle, this toppled tree rests on a roof on Harris Street. Credit: Paula Brewer / BDN

From their home on Dyer Street late Friday night, they watched as flashing lights appeared. Saturday morning they discovered the downed tree.

The large evergreen somehow fell cleanly between two houses, missed all four cars that were in the driveway and did not snag the power lines overhead, Rachel Murchison said.  One person who normally parks at the end of the driveway had just happened to park further ahead near the garage last night.

“It’s like a Christmas miracle,” Murchison said. “What are the chances, the way it fell? If it’s going to happen, that’s the way you want it to.”