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Severe microburst takes down 40-60 trees in New Sweden

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — A short-lived, but intense, storm left its mark on New Sweden Tuesday morning, taking down 40 to 60 trees and knocking out power to hundreds of area residents, according to a County emergency official.

John Gibson, deputy director of Aroostook County Emergency Management, said Wednesday that the damage occurred on Route 161, roughly one mile north of the four corners where Northstar Variety is located.

He said the National Weather Service in Caribou confirmed that the damage was caused by a “microburst” that packed winds of 60-70 miles per hour. A microburst is a localized column of sinking air, or downdraft, within a thunderstorm that can cause extensive damage at the surface, according to the National Weather Service.

Rich Norton of the National Weather Service Caribou office said Wednesday that severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in northern Aroostook between about 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday beginning in the Fort Kent area and then spreading east across Madawaska Lake and beyond.

Norton estimated that much of the damage from the microburst in the New Sweden area occurred at about 7:45 in the morning.

Gibson said about “40 to 60 trees are either down or uprooted” in New Sweden.

“It’s pretty crazy,” he said, “a lot of them have blown over, but several were just completely uprooted and one power pole was taken out.”

Norton said that 99.9 percent of the damage in New Sweden was caused by “straight-line winds,” and that only one tree fell in a direction different from the others.

Emera Maine reported that about 1,300 customers lost power in the area but that it was restored to all by late afternoon Tuesday. Road crews also have since cleared the highway of debris, according to the Gibson.

While the storm affected other areas of Aroostook County outside New Sweden, Gibson said that Aroostook EMA had not received any reports of severe damage elsewhere as of Wednesday morning.

Frank Bolton of southern Aroostook wrote in an email that he saw at least 15 downed trees along Route 1 around North Amity, and that several tree branches had fallen into the roadway on Sunset Park Road in Orient, resulting in lost power for several residents.

Norton said the NWS had received a report about “at least one downed tree in the Allagash area,” where the storm began at roughly 6 a.m., but had not yet received any reports of severe damage in the Orient area or elsewhere in Aroostook as of Wednesday morning.

“We’re still verifying a few isolated areas in the middle of the woods,” he said, adding that the weather service will not be able to confirm any additional events or damage until the forest service has flown above these areas.

For any motorists who find themselves caught in a microburst, Gibson said the best thing to do is pull over.

“If you can’t find any shelter where you can take cover,” he said, “the best thing you can do is pull over, stay in your car, and wait it out.”

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