Heavy rains, high winds sweep across state

A pedestrian dashes across Franklin Street during a downpour in Bangor on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. According to the National Weather Service in Carbiou, heavy rains may produce minor flooding through Wednesday with a  total of 2 to 3 inches rainfall. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT
A pedestrian dashes across Franklin Street during a downpour in Bangor on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. According to the National Weather Service in Carbiou, heavy rains may produce minor flooding through Wednesday with a total of 2 to 3 inches rainfall. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT
Posted March 23, 2010, at 9:56 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — A band of low pressure moving across Maine brought heavy rain and high winds to parts of the state Tuesday, and flood watches were in effect in Knox, Waldo and Hancock counties.

As much as 4 inches of rain was expected to fall in coastal areas by Wednesday morning, National Weather Service officials said Tuesday afternoon.

Flood warnings were issued Tuesday for Lincoln and Somerset counties and in some southern and western counties.

A flood watch means there is a potential for flooding based on current forecasts. A flood warning means flooding is occurring or is imminent, according to the NWS.

The storm was moving slowly from Nantucket, Mass., to New Brunswick on Tuesday, according to National Weather Service forecaster Tom Hawley in Gray.

“The moisture for the storm is coming right out of the Caribbean and wrapping right around into Maine,” Hawley said.

By Tuesday afternoon, Rockport had an inch of rain, and nearly an inch fell on Winterport. Southern Maine was hardest hit, with York receiving 3.26 inches by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“Those readings will go up as we get into evening,” Hawley said. “Overall rainfall will reach at least 2 inches, and coastal Maine could reach 4 inches before it is all over with during the day [Wednesday].”

National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Turner in Caribou said higher-elevation areas in the vicinity of Somerset County could get higher rain levels.

“That’s where the concern is,” Turner said.

The heaviest winds Tuesday were clocked in Down East areas. In Cutler, wind was recorded at 55 mph, and Acadia National Park recorded 40 mph winds.

There were some reports of thunder in Hancock County.

Ralph E. Pinkham, director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency, said he was watching out for river flooding and expected some power outages with the high winds, but “nothing out of the ordinary.”

“It doesn’t look to me that we’re going to be affected as much as they are on the midcoast,” Pinkham said. “We’ll have rain and gusty winds, but nothing like it was a few weeks ago. We’re not anticipating any problems.”

Down East Maine, including Eastport, Machias and Cherryfield, was listed on a high-wind warning. Machias Police Chief Grady Dwelley said Tuesday afternoon that “it is raining and it is windy.”

Local emergency management agencies, including Waldo, Knox, Somerset and Hancock county agencies, had reported no damage by Tuesday afternoon. Coast Guard officials in Rockland also said there had been no storm-related damage as of early Tuesday evening.

Roger W. Lightbody Sr., director of Somerset County Emergency Management Agency, said Jackman wasn’t getting much rain Tuesday afternoon, but snow arrived.

“It’s winter there,” Lightbody said. “They’re getting a lot of snow, sleet and freezing rain.”

Northern Maine saw snowfall accumulations of as much as 6 inches as of about 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to meteorologist Rich Norton of the National Weather Service office in Caribou.

How much you got depended on where you were, Norton said. He said the northwest received the highest totals, with Allagash coming in at 6 inches, Fort Kent at 5 inches and Portage at 4.5 inches.

Road conditions were blamed for an accident in St. David on Tuesday afternoon in which a 23-year-old man died.

Stockholm and St. Agatha received 3 to 4 inches, while Limestone and Caribou saw 2 to 3 inches of snow, Norton said.

The snow and sleet in northern Maine, which moved up from the south, began to pile up around 8 a.m. Tuesday but was expected to taper off in the evening, he said.

Turner said a low-pressure weather pattern in the Gulf of Maine that has been responsible for Maine’s relatively mild winter weather is starting to break down and is allowing weather to flow eastward.

“It’s allowing some of the storms that have been blocked out of the area to go from southern Maine and go into northern Maine,” Turner said.

Central Maine Power Co. had an outage in Searsmont that affected 2,000 area customers, but it was related to a vehicle accident and was not storm-related.

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. had no storm outages by Tuesday evening.

Hawley said the rain was expected to diminish to showers overnight and into Wednesday, when the system will ease out of Maine into Canada.

Forecasts for northern Maine called for a mix of snow and rain for the rest of the week, though little to no new accumulation was expected.

BDN writer Dawn Gagnon in Bangor contributed to this report.

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