Goodbye, Earl: Tropical storm misses Maine

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Meteorologists are calling Hurricane Earl’s visit to Maine “a near miss.”

“If it had gone 100 miles to the west, it would have been totally different,” said Eric Schwibs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. “Instead, it hit Nova Scotia and 150,000 people are reported out of power.”

The fast-moving storm — it wasn’t still a hurricane by the time it got to New England — left little more than rain in his wake here, dumping 2.5 inches in Auburn and varying amounts across the region.

Portland received about 1.5 inches of rain. Brunswick had 2.9, Lisbon had 2.19, Sumner recorded 1.25 and Wayne had 1.66.

“It had the characteristics of a tropical storm,” Schwibs said, with small downpours that might last only a few minutes but drop a lot of rain.

“For us, it was pretty much a non-event,” he said.

Across western Maine, brooks and streams reduced to mere puddles by the dry spell, surged back to life, along with the Swift River in Rumford, which ran deep in places with a silt-laden flow.

Apparently, Earl behaved himself in Oxford County. When asked on Saturday afternoon if there had been any damage or flooding associated with the much ballyhooed storm, an Oxford County dispatcher in Paris replied with an emphatic “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” A Franklin County dispatcher said the only washout there was on the Whittier Road in Farmington, which was already under construction before Earl’s rains arrived.

An Androscoggin County dispatcher said the only damage was a tree that fell during the storm. Of course, the tree was already dead.

“We think it would have fallen anyway,” the dispatcher said.

The rain also reduced Saturday’s fire-danger rating by the Maine Forest Service to low across Western Maine and moderate from Fryeburg through Lewiston-Auburn to Bangor, according to its website.

To Schwibs, the storm went as scheduled.

“Across Maine, we never elevated the tropical storm watch to a warning,” he said. “The only place we did that was at sea.”

However, this may not be Maine’s only shot for a big wind this fall. Hurricane season lasts into November.

“Then, winter storm season begins,” Schwibs said. And in those storms, Maine tends to meet its most ferocious weather.

“It’s common for us to get hurricane-force winds from a nor’easter,” Schwibs said.

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