AUBURN – It wasn’t only the winds of political change blowing on Wednesday. Steady gusts throughout the day knocked out power and other utilities to homes and businesses across the region.

By the middle of the afternoon, 5,000 Central Maine Power customers were in the dark as high winds felled tree limbs and power lines.

The Bridgton and Farmington areas were particularly hard hit, although outages were also reported in Auburn, Turner, Minot, Gray, Poland and Bethel.

At Bethel Regional Airport, an aircraft hangar had been tossed about by the wind and came to rest destroyed, atop a new chain-link fence.

Dan Kennagh, assistant manager of Bethel airport, said that between 8:30 and 9 a.m., a strong gust tore Dan Davis’ hangar loose, flipped it into the air and dumped it on 30 feet of fence. Debris was blown everywhere, but the South Paris man’s plane, a Piper Skipper parked inside the hangar, wasn’t harmed.

“It was one wild place over here. We had winds gusting between 40 and 45 mph,” Kennagh said.

School bus drivers taking SAD 44 students home and rush-hour traffic seeking to use Route 26 were detoured for hours on back roads when high winds severed a utility pole at 1:45 p.m. just east of the Intervale Road intersection.

Later in the day, Dixfield, Mexico and Rumford firefighters were busy extinguishing fires caused by trees falling on wires or clearing limbs and trees from roads.

Wal-Mart in Mexico was closed for a time due to a power outage caused by a downed tree.

Firefighters in Carthage, Chesterville, Temple and Weld responded to about a half dozen calls of trees afire on wires.

High winds were also blamed for causing radio communications problems for Franklin County emergency dispatchers.

Weather officials said gusts of 20 to 30 mph were reported throughout the day. The National Weather Service in Gray issued a wind advisory while CMP crews were out in force making repairs.

Bob Marine, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Gray, said Wednesday’s winds were caused by the combination of a strong horizontal transfer of cold air and a tight pressure gradient.

This was accompanied by a large Canadian high pressure area that came in behind the cold front, Marine said.

“The worst part is that it can be so gusty, then let up for awhile, then jump up from 15 to 25 mph. That’s when you really see those trees bend over,” Marine said.

By 4:30 p.m., the number of homes and businesses without power in western Maine had been whittled down to 3,700. Power to most affected areas was restored by early evening, although some CMP customers in Harrison and Gray were expected to be without power later into the night.

In Auburn, scattered power outages were reported throughout the day as tree limbs continued to fall. Most homes and businesses affected were in the neighborhoods around Court Street.

By late Wednesday afternoon, power was restored to CMP customers in Auburn, although cable service remained out for some.

Weather officials said Thursday should be sunny and reasonably warm before rain moves in on Friday.

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