Sugarloaf Mountain radio tower collapse
© Dan Barker / Sugarloaf
Before and after pictures show a radio tower bent in half after Monday's high winds.

The radio and communications tower on top of Sugarloaf Mountain bent like a pretzel Monday in extremely high winds.

"Initial thought was down due to power or some other issue," Communications Director C.L. Folsom said. "And then it got explained to me 'No. It's down on the ground.'"

Witnesses say ice had formed on the tower from a Sunday snowstorm.

Then came the strong winds.

"The tower was pretty heavy with rime ice," Sugarloaf Marketing Director Ethan Austin said. "And then all this wind right after it. Sustained winds all day. Probably the combination did it in."

Tuesday, winds were still racing across Sugarloaf Mountain, closing ski lifts and most ski slopes for a second straight day.

"We're the second tallest peak in the State of Maine," Austin said. "So we get pretty strong winds, but it's not every day you get something like happened yesterday for sure."

The National Weather Service office in Gray says the winds on top of Sugarloaf were well in excess of 100 miles an hour Monday afternoon when the tower fell. They say there was a wind gauge on that tower, but they haven't been able to retrieve the data from it yet.

The tower is owned by TDS of Maine, and doubles as a cell tower and communications tower for Homeland Security and Franklin County Dispatch.

Tuesday afternoon, winds were still too strong to send crews up to assess the damage.

"That's being hindered," Folsom said. "There's still sustained winds up there, I'm told, around 100 mph."

Company officials say sensors from the building under the tower indicate it is still operational with power and heat.

That's good news for Franklin County Dispatch, who hope to connect a backup tower on Sugarloaf to that building.

"We already have a backup system up there," Folsom said. "As long as that wasn't damaged, we'll be back up to basically almost full strength by the end of the day today."

Homeland Security is using a nearby Border Patrol tower as its backup.