The 2019 Gardiner-Augusta Tornado was a powerful, EF3 multi vortex wedge tornado that devastated the cities of Gardiner and Augusta, Maine on June 11, 2019. The twister first touched down just south of Gardiner and moved north through the city. It continued north, paralleling Interstate 95 before moving right through downtown Augusta, leaving behind severe to devastating damage. The twister was the most powerful in Maine's history, as well as the deadliest and costliest.
The tornado touched down south of the city of Gardiner at 1:28PM and began moving north. The tornado was initially weak, producing EF0-EF1 damage to trees. The tornado took on a large stovepipe appearance as it began intensifying.
At around 1:33PM, the tornado made a direct hit on the city of Gardiner, producing severe damage. Homes and businesses were damaged, and some were destroyed. One home was swept away, and surveyors unintentionally rated it as EF4 damage; However, the home was found to be weak and not anchored properly to its foundation. Thus, it was downgraded to High End EF3. Apart from the home and business damage, trees and power lines across the city were brought down, and cars were moved/thrown considerable distances. In Gardiner alone, 5 people were killed, and 52 others were hurt, some critically.
After the tornado exited Gardiner, it continued moving north, parallel to I-95. The tornado weakened to an EF2 as it inflicted more damage to homes and trees near the town of Farmingdale. The tornado then entered a small residential area north of Farmingdale near the Kennebec River, where it briefly re-intensified into an EF3 tornado. Only one home sustained EF3 damage; the other damage was EF1-EF2. 2 people were injured. After the tornado exited this area, it crossed the Kennebec River and began to take on a multiple vortex appearance.
At 1:40PM, the National Weather Service office in Gray, Maine, issued a tornado emergency for Augusta, the first ever in Maines history. The tornado continued north, downing more trees and power lines, and damaging homes. The tornado lost its multiple vortex structure and became a large, wedge, tornado. It crossed the Kennebec River one last time before it moved right through downtown Augusta.
The tornado left devastating damage in Augusta. Homes and businesses were damaged or completely destroyed, trees and power lines were downed, cars were thrown and moved for a distance, and a billboard was knocked over. Several tall buildings had their windows blown out and roofs partially taken off. The Maine State Museum, Department of Secretary of State Building, and the Legislative Office were all severely damaged. The Augusta State Airport suffered heavy damage, as well as the historic Fort Western. The max damage in Augusta was EF3 with 155MPH winds. After the tornado passed right through downtown, it continued north before it rapidly weakened and dissipated. In Augusta alone, 8 people were killed and 97 others were hurt, some of them critically.
Casualties, Damages, and Aftermath
In total, 13 people were killed, and 151 others were injured, some critically. It was the first tornado to cause a fatality in Maine since 1954, and is also the deadliest tornado in Maine history. The tornado is also the strongest in the states history, ranking as an EF3. In total, 1012 homes and businesses were damaged; of that number, 296 of them were destroyed completely. Power was knocked out to much of the Augusta area completely, and it took crews almost a week to get electricity back. Due to the severe damage to the Legislative and Capitol building in Augusta, operations were moved to Bangor for a while. In total, $1.9 billion dollars in damages was done, ranking it as the fourth costliest tornado in US history, although it was bumped down to the 5th spot on the list just 5 days later following the 2019 Bakersfield Tornado.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, crews were dispatched to Gardiner and Augusta for search and rescue operations. The rescue operations later expanded to areas in between the cities. The next day, Maine Governor Janet Mills issued a state of emergency for the entire state. One day later, US President Donald Trump declared Kennebec County a disaster area, allowing FEMA funding. The area has been recovering ever since, and it is expected to take years for a full recovery.