Joe’s Journal

A September non-tornado

Posted:  Wednesday, September 12, 2018 - 7:15am
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The National Weather Service says the storm that hit our neighborhood last Thursday was not a tornado. Right.

Here is what they told the Portland Press Herald.

“A tornado requires both rotational winds and for that spinning column of air to touch down on the ground. In Boothbay there was rotational loft in the storm, which is what caught our eye,” said a weather expert. But, he said, there was no evidence that there was a tornado on the ground. Although many trees were snapped and uprooted, there was no distinct pattern of damage that would have indicated a tornado had touched down, he explained.

I guess the expert didn’t stop at Nell Tharpe’s house in East Boothbay where the non-tornado scattered dozens of oak and pine trees around her yard in a circle, like pick up sticks pitched on the schoolhouse floor. Ditto for her neighbor, the Bigelow Lab for Ocean Science.

If not a tornado, maybe it was the Big Bad Wolf who huffed and puffed but failed to blow down the homes and businesses in the old village.

Here are a few observations.

Driving into East Boothbay, you can see the storm split a stately maple standing on the top of the Route 96 hill, dropped a spruce between a pair of small homes, then boogied over to Scrimpy Lewis’s house, stomping down a dozen or so big oaks and pines. Then it skipped down the hill to flatten Ron Riml’s little apple tree not far from the post office. It missed my favorite tree, a huge copper beech in Riml’s yard that must be several hundred years old.

The non-tornado then sidestepped over the post office and, the yachts and lobster boats docked at Danny Miller’s Ocean Point Marina. An old spruce that had clung to a ledge for a century or so was dislodged and slammed on the roof of a tiny building behind the nearby building that once served as the village grocery store.

Did Divine intervention nudge it away from the old East Boothbay Methodist Church? If so, it slammed into a towering willow near Cathy Sherrill’s house and laid it down on the Ocean Point Road.

For some reason, Miller’s marina, Lobsterman’s Wharf, the former Hodgdon Yacht facility, and Washburn & Doughty Shipyard were spared.

Kevin Burnham, the editor of your favorite newspaper, did a great job leading his staff on a photo safari. His Facebook posts provided lots of information on a real-time basis.

I was sitting in my home munching on a peanut butter sandwich when I heard thunder and rushed to unplug the computer, and the power went out. Seconds later, the house was engulfed in a brutal swirling rain like you would experience if you stood in the middle of the town’s automatic car wash.

A glance towards the back deck revealed the bright red patio umbrella flapping around like a loose spinnaker on a blustery day.

It seemed it would slam into the windows so, it was time to slide open the kitchen door and step into the vortex, wrestle the umbrella onto the deck and crank her down.

Back inside, in the time it took to mop up the puddles on the kitchen floor, the rain stopped. House was OK, but a half dozen trees were not, including a couple of bushy oaks that were now relaxing on the street below. A half a block away the Beath and Back Narrows roads were blocked as utility poles and trees were snapped like twigs, disrupting the lives of neighbors. Outside, my favorite neighbor and I helped direct traffic around the mess, including a woman who glared and honked at us. I guess she thought it was our fault.

In a few minutes, a half dozen men from the Harbor’s excellent public works crew and volunteer firefighters arrived with chainsaws to clear the mess and direct confused motorists.

Boothbay Harbor’s Fire Chief Nick Upham arrived and said we suffered the only tree damage in his town. Then he told the workers: “We are done here. Let’s go and see if we can help out the crews from other towns.” Happily, a preliminary check revealed that no one had been injured in the storm.

Not so for the hundreds of trees that were flattened on our peninsula. But, they will grow back, just as they did after the early settlers clear-cut the hills and meadows for wood to build houses, ships, heat their homes and cook their suppers.

By the way, Nell Tharpe offered special thanks to the crews from Washburn & Doughty who used a large piece of industrial equipment to clear the gaggle of downed trees from her driveway.

Thanks to all.