Sanford Springvale News Banner

Copyright © 2024 – Sanford Springvale News – All rights reserved.

by M. Allison Navia, Manager, Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport

I have said that this year someone with some influence is out there saying over and over again “Pharaoh, let my people go”. That’s an Old Testament joke. But sincerely, just when we thought 2020 had been wicked enough, a freakish hailstorm descended on South Sanford. Dark clouds appeared on the horizon, but there was no reason to think it was any different than any other summertime thunderstorm. Looking at the radar, though, the area was pink – not a color we’re used to seeing in New England – and it was a direct hit on the airport.

Joe and Matt were painting runway markings that morning and decided it was better to take a break and let the storm pass. They didn’t make it back to the safety of the shop, though, before the storm hit in full force. I contend that no one knows the airport better than Joe, so when he said he had to stop because he just couldn’t see enough to tell where he was anymore… cue the goosebumps.

A tenant described the onset of the storm to me saying that he felt a strange stillness and looked out toward to airfield to see dead birds falling from the sky. They had been killed by falling hail aloft. Again with the goosebumps. He rushed to get his window-less hangar closed up just in time to wait it out inside, listening to the sounds of wind, rain and hail. Back with airport maintenance, winds rocked the truck and hail pounded down, cracking the windshield.

After more than 10 minutes when the storm subsided a scene that felt post-apocalyptic was discovered. The catch basins were blocked with debris and leaves that had been stripped off every tree, causing the water on the long term ramp to rise high enough to touch the bellies of the airplanes parked there. A whirlpool over 20’ wide was formed around the basins. Hail was in piles 8” to 12” deep in places. As it started to melt, an eerie low lying fog swirled around the damage.

I met a plow truck on Airport Road under these foggy conditions, plowing a large amount of leaves and hail off the road. Plowing… In July.

Large oak trees were snapped in half. The power line near our building on Gatehouse Road had come down and there were 12 foot tall flames in the woods. Power was knocked out to the entire industrial park and an emergency evacuation route was formed and caravan of employees escorted along Taxiway H to get back around to Gatehouse Road. Taxiway Charlie was covered in insulation from the devastated door enclosure on Big Blue. One of Sanford Soaring Club’s gliders, built to stay aloft on the finest breeze, had flown off its tie down and was on its roof almost 200’ away. Multiple airplanes tied down on the ramp were damaged beyond repair, hangars lost panels and portions of their rooves, and one looked like Godzilla might have stubbed his toe on it. As you can see in the photo of that poor hangar, before we could even take in the extent of the damage the air became hot again and the sun came out, making you feel crazy for thinking it had ever even happened.

Despite all the damage, there are things to be thankful for: No human beings were hurt. The Sanford Fire Department did a great job addressing the electrical fire on Gatehouse Road. Public Works responded to the insane need to mobilize plow equipment in July quickly and effectively. Insurance of many kinds covers hail damage. Paintless dent removal exists. And, again, everyone went home alright.

Copyright © 2024 - Sanford Springvale News - All rights reserved. | CoverNews by AF themes.