Wild weather wreaks havoc across Western Maine

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DIXFIELD — Residents in Western Maine saw just about every form of precipitation on Thursday during a spate of wild weather.

Rain, sleet, snow and hail fell as blue skies suddenly turned black and gusts up to 60 mph blew through, causing scattered power outages.

The culprit was a warm front, followed quickly by a cold front, James Brown, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray said Thursday afternoon.

It created dense fog on Wednesday night, driving temperatures into the 50s.

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Runoff from melting snow caused small rivers and streams to rise, creating ice jams from Maine to New Hampshire, he said.

By about 3:30 p.m., Brown said they were tracking flooding from five ice jams, four of which were in New Hampshire and the other on the Swift River in Roxbury, that were all starting to break up.

The Androscoggin River in Dixfield was littered with ice floes into the evening from tributaries.

Brown said most of the state only received half an inch of rain, while more than an inch fell in a few other places.

“The fact was that it warmed up so much, so yeah, the rain wasn’t the problem,” Brown said of what caused the ice-jam flooding.

“Just about everybody got into the 50s. The record high in Portland was 54 degrees for this day and they tied it this morning,” he said. It was the second day in a row that Portland tied its record high.

As for peak wind gusts prior to 1 p.m., Brown said Turner recorded 57 mph and the Augusta airport saw 54 mph. At Matinicus Rock it reached 74 mph, according to The Associated Press. The AP also reported that the wind gusted to 63 mph in Bath, ripping the copper sheathing off a 50-foot section of roof at the Maine Maritime Museum.

Teresa Glick, deputy director of the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency in Paris, said they sent Mexico fire Chief Gary Wentzell up the Swift River to find the ice jam that callers were reporting to them.

Wentzell, however, said he found no blockages.

“The water’s flowing through it,” he said. “Somebody called them and said there was a massive ice jam, but there wasn’t.”

Glick said high winds caused 389 power outages across the county by midafternoon, most of which were centered on the Greenwood-Norway town line area.

Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry opened for the day with a few lifts running at South Ridge and for beginner terrain. When winds increased around 11 a.m., all lifts were shut down, she said.

As for trail conditions, Morse said the warm temperatures softened the snow. She said grooming crews would be sent out Thursday night as the cold front pushed through and colder temperatures returned.

In Dixfield and Rumford, the weather drastically changed about every few minutes it seemed, from morning to late afternoon.

One minute it was blue sky, calm and very warm; the next minute, the sky had turned black as strong wind gusts came, and rain, snow, sleet and hail fell.

A few minutes later, it was calm and clear and sunny again. Backyards and streets, however, resembled reflection pools as temperatures converted snow and ice into water.

Temperatures plunged from the 50s Thursday morning into the low to mid-30s by evening.

The weather was just as wild in Rangeley, Aimee Danforth of the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club, said Thursday evening via Facebook.

“It is very windy up here right now, but the temps have dropped drastically,” she said.

Around 5 p.m. on the club’s Facebook site, Danforth advised people traveling north on Route 4 that the Maine Department of Transportation had shut the road down due to ice piled against a bridge south of Smalls Falls.

A dispatcher at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department in Farmington said a state transportation crew was on scene, but she didn’t know if the state had closed the road to through traffic.

On Thursday morning, Danforth advised club members to stay off Rangeley’s trails to prevent damage to the base. Heavy rain was falling at the time. The trails weren’t closed, but Danforth said she urged riders to use caution due to conditions.

“We are out grooming tonight to repair the damage done by today’s storm,” she said.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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