PORTLAND, Maine — A second straight day of relentless rain caused flash flooding, washed out a small dam in Oxford County and raised concerns about shallow wells and septic systems as rainfall totals in Maine’s largest city approached a monthly record.
The slow-moving storm churned across the state Tuesday, prompting the National Weather Service to issue flood warnings for the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, the Kennebec River in Skowhegan and small streams in York, Knox and Waldo counties. Beach erosion and minor coastal flooding were brought on by an extreme high tide and storm surge.
Three inches of rain fell on midcoast Maine Monday night and Tuesday morning, NWS officials said Tuesday afternoon. Forecasters in Gray said Knox and Waldo counties could expect 2 more inches before the storm relents Wednesday morning.
“The brooks are running hard, but they are running good,” said Ray Sisk, director of the Knox County Emergency Management Agency, on Tuesday afternoon.
Sisk said Rockport and Camden suffered some power outages Monday night, and some area residents complained of “big localized puddles” in their yards, but no damage had been reported as of Tuesday afternoon.
Central Maine Power spokesperson John Carroll said almost 500 customers lost power for a few hours Monday night in Hope and Rockport. Customers in Palermo and Freedom were out of power for about half an hour Monday evening as well.
In downtown Bangor, the east and west sides of Kenduskeag Plaza parking lot and a portion of the ground level of the Pickering Square parking garage were closed Monday night and all day Tuesday. Traffic into that area of downtown also was rerouted.
When high tide was marked at 11:32 a.m. Tuesday, the Kenduskeag Stream, which periodically floods its banks, was higher than normal, but was not causing any serious flooding problems, according to city officials.
One underground parking area designated for tenants at 6 State St. was flooded, but just one out of state vehicle parked in the water. Other flooded parking areas were empty.
Firefighter Phil Hamm, who answered the phone at Bangor’s Central Fire Station, said the department did not respond to any flooding issues on Tuesday.
In the Katahdin and Lincoln Lakes regions, waters rose on the Mattawamkeag, Penobscot and Piscataquis rivers Tuesday, but none so far that they threatened housing or roadways, residents and officials said.
The Mattawamkeag River along Medway Road in Mattawamkeag is usually the first of Penobscot County areas to flood and water was rising, but town Administrative Assistant Stephen Worster said he doubted much serious flooding would occur there unless heavy rains continued overnight.
“The river is a little higher today but we haven’t had any complaints,” Worster said. “If it’s anything, it will be a minor issue.”
The relatively light snowfall this winter, slowly increasing temperatures that cause gradual melting, the lack of heavy river ice or previous heavy rains all made extensive flooding unlikely, residents said.
In Howland, the Piscataquis River lapped far up the town boat landing, but nowhere near Water Street.
In York County, the emergency management office ramped up for the fourth time in little more than a month because of heavy rain and flooding. The ground is so saturated it’s causing septic tank problems and contaminating some shallow wells, Bob Bohlmann, emergency management agency director, said Tuesday.
“We seem to have a big bull’s eye over us for the past month or so,” he said.
When the Colcord Pond dam let loose Tuesday morning in the Oxford County town of Porter, it let out a torrent of water that washed out two country roads, said Porter firefighter Tony Townsend. But no evacuations were reported and Route 25 was not flooded as officials originally stated, he said.
Air boats were brought in to help officials assess damage to the dam.
The monthly precipitation in Portland is approaching the record of 9.97 inches, set in March 1953. The city was 1.28 inches short of breaking the record as of Tuesday afternoon.
Meteorologists said another 1 to 2 inches of rain was expected to fall in southern Maine through Tuesday night.
According to Bob Marine, a meteorologist for NWS in Gray, the storm was sitting over Long Island, N.Y., Tuesday.
“It’s spinning and throwing a whole bunch of water back from the Atlantic into Maine,” Marine said Tuesday afternoon.
The worst of the storm was battering southern New England.
In Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri asked residents Tuesday afternoon to get home by dinnertime to avoid traveling in what officials expect to be the most severe flooding to hit the state in more than 100 years.
“The worst is still ahead of us,” he said during a broadcast carried live on the state’s major TV stations. “We’re in a serious, serious situation.”
National Guard troops were activated in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, where neighborhoods still recovering from earlier flooding were again swamped after two days of unrelenting rain.
A storm two weeks ago dropped as much as much as 10 inches of rain on the same region. Although the rain tapered off in many areas Tuesday afternoon, forecasters said the region’s rivers might not crest until Wednesday or even Thursday.
The National Weather Service said that by Tuesday afternoon, Providence had recorded more than 15 inches of rain for the month, becoming the rainiest of any month on record, breaking a mark set in 2005. Boston also set a record for the month of March, topping a mark set in 1953 with nearly 14 inches of rain. It is now the second rainiest month since record keeping began in 1872.
Sections of I-95 in Rhode Island were flooded down to one lane for the Tuesday afternoon commute.
Amtrak said some trains through Rhode Island and Connecticut were delayed because of high water on the tracks, and passengers on commuter trains between Providence and Boston had to board buses for part of the way because of flooding.
Not everyone was sweating the weather.
In Kennebunk, about 10 surfers took advantage of the coastal storm to catch some high waves.
Leonard Earnshaw, 36, of Bradford, Mass., said he took time off from work to drive to Maine to go surfing Tuesday morning.
“Surfers get excited when you see a pressure system like this come in because it means you’re going to get good surf,” he said.
Marine of the NWS in Gray said the storm is expected to wind down Wednesday morning, clearing the way for an unseasonably sunny weekend.
“It’s going to smash all the records — it’s going to be very warm,” Marine said. “Inland areas are going to be well into the 80s.”