Severe thunderstorms blast Rumford region

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

The top of a utility pole that was severed during severe thunderstorms on Wednesday afternoon in Rumford hangs beside its pole as eastbound traffic passes. The lines dropped onto Route 2 and across the roof of the Countryside Animal Hospital in Rumford. The highway was closed until a Central Maine Power crew could turn off electricity to the wires.

RUMFORD — Most homes and businesses that lost power due to Wednesday night storms had their electricity back by noon Thursday.

Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice said remaining power outages on Thursday were: 2 in Androscoggin County, down from 300 Wednesday night; 146 in Oxford County, down from 6,700; and 3 in Franklin County, down from 3,700.

Severe thunderstorms packing heavy wind, hail and up to 6 inches of rain hammered the region Wednesday afternoon.

Flash flooding and downed trees and power lines closed several roads to traffic during the downpour from 2:30 to 5:15 p.m. and afterward.

Wednesday night "every available person we have is out working on it right now," Rice said, adding crews worked through the night.

Of the 6,700 power outages Wednesday in Oxford County, Rumford had the most at 1,835, followed by Mexico with 1,248, Dixfield with 1,158, and Peru with 1,010.

There were no injuries in the Rumford area and no one required shelter, Rumford fire Deputy Chief Richard Coulombe said Thursday evening.

"Just a lot of wet people," Coulombe said. "I've never seen this much rain in such a small area. We were lucky."

National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Sinsabaugh in Gray said 4 to 6 inches of rain fell (in the Rumford region) over a one- to two-hour period. "It's a lot of water."

That's why the weather service issued flash-flood warnings ahead of the storm for Androscoggin, Franklin, Oxford, northern Kennebec and Somerset counties.

"Several cells moved through the region and another round will arrive tomorrow but will start a little earlier," Sinsabaugh said.

Coulombe said several Rumford-area roads will remain closed into the night. He said that while he had yet to get an update on roads in the Virginia neighborhood, Sunnyside Terrace was washed out.

Wyman Hill Road, South Rumford Road and Hall Hill Road remain closed. Route 108, which sustained a mudslide when a yard washed into the road, was reopened.

Coulombe said he wasn't sure whether a South Rumford Road house reported at 5:45 p.m. as being washed away actually happened.

"There was lot of water coming in on both sides of it, but I don't know if it was washed away, because I haven't been able to get in there," he said.

Trees were down on both ends of Hall Hill Road and there were washouts. He said at the height of the storm he had 10 firefighters out with more coming to help "once they could find a road they could get through."

Prior to the storm's arrival, huge thunderheads could be seen building around Rumford. The sky opened at 2:30 p.m. with a deluge and high winds.

Increasing rain quickly ponded in low spots on Routes 2 and 108, forcing traffic into opposite lanes.

The sky turned black between Hanover and Rumford as the rain and wind intensity increased, along with the frequency of cloud-to-ground lightning.

At about 4:15 p.m., a sustained blast of wind felled two large trees onto Route 2 opposite Royal Avenue, causing live power lines to hang low over the eastbound lane.

Several trees came down in the woods beside Countryside Animal Hospital on Route 2, shearing off the top third of a utility pole and dropping power lines across the hospital roof.

Trees and power lines were felled at the same time on Royal, Crescent and Prospect avenues. Rumford firefighters were called out to block access to the damaged areas as rain continued to fall heavily and lightning struck all around.

Rumford police and firefighters were busy trying to reach stranded motorists as flash floods covered roads, including South Rumford Road.

Motorists on Route 2 at Rumford Center alerted police that rising floodwater had nearly made the highway impassable.

Rumford police Sgt. Tracey Higley radioed dispatch in Paris requesting additional manpower to help shut down roads.

Pea-sized hail pounded traffic off and on for about a minute every 15-20 minutes during the height of the storm. Power lines had fallen across the Morse Bridge on Route 108 over the Androscoggin River, closing the bridge to traffic.

Eventually, Route 2 was shut down around 5 p.m. in Rumford backing up traffic for a few miles in either direction as lightning flashed overhead and the downpour continued.

By 5:15 p.m., Higley asked for more officers to shut down South Rumford Road and Route 232 because of major flooding. The roads were washing out.

Smithcrossing Road also flooded.

By 5:45 p.m., Mexico firefighters were called to Highland Terrace and River Road (Route 2) for floodwater running into a house. Fifteen minutes later, they were sent to Mountain Valley Middle School, which was flooding.

Coulombe said he was trying to contact the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency to set up emergency shelters in the Rumford area.

"I didn't know how bad it was going to get," he said.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Drivers head west on Route 2 in Rumford on Wednesday afternoon during a heavy downpour that quickly flooded streets and caused flashfloods while high winds felled several trees and powerlines onto roads.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

A huge thunderhead builds near Rumford on Wednesday afternoon just prior to severe thunderstorms that blasted the town with high winds and heavy downpours from 2:30 to 5:15 p.m., causing flash floods and felling many trees and power lines.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Heavy downpours on Wednesday afternoon erode this dirt road beside Route 2 in Rumford, flooding the westbound lane of Route 2.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rising muddy water at left rushes past this tree felled across Royal Avenue in Rumford on Wednesday afternoon during heavy downpours from severe thunderstorms. Several roads in the Rumford area were closed due to flashflooding and trees and powerlines down.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Power lines hang low across Route 2 on Wednesday afternoon during a heavy downpour after a very strong blast of wind felled these two trees across the highway in Rumford, reducing traffic to one lane. Route 2 was shut down until after 5:15 p.m. when a Central Maine Power crew could turn off electricity.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

People run out of Rumford Public Library into a heavy downpour on Wednesday afternoon as severe thunderstorms blasted Rumford with heavy wind and rain and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

A motorist tries to navigate rising water on Route 2 in Rumford on Wednesday afternoon during a heavy downpour from severe thunderstorms packing high winds and frequent lightning.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

During Wednesday afternoon's severe thunderstorms, the power wash was on the outside of Yvon's car wash in Rumford as up to 6 inches of rain fell in an hour or two, causing flashflooding that shut down roads.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Heavy downpours and wind from severe thunderstorms blast Rumford on Wednesday afternoon just west of Judy's Variety and Yvon's Wash on Route 2.

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KELLY SCOTTI's picture

This article has me confused

This article has me confused I don't know what day it is! The captions on the pictures reference the storm on Thursday. The first line in the article references the storm on Tuesday. The byline date is Wednesday! Come on online editor which is it going to be?

TERRY KARKOS's picture

Wrong day

sorry, my bad..was trying to read my notes to a typist in Lewiston by flashlight from the Rumford office because the power was out and simply forgot what day it was in all the hectic confusion of getting stuck out in this and soaked.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture


no need to explain we are all human.....even the typist could have caught it too,,,Happy 4th,,,,

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture


good catch....he is wanting the Holiday to get here quicker.....


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