Storm floods roads, cuts power across state

Posted Dec. 13, 2010, at 8:06 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:54 a.m.

CARIBOU, Maine — Heavy rains and high winds pummeled the state Monday, flooding roadways and knocking out power to nearly 3,000 in some parts of the state.

The rain and wind were part of the same storm system that dumped up to 2 feet of snow on the Midwest over the weekend, causing at least 15 deaths.

Todd Lericos, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said that as the storm system moved into Maine on Sunday, it met up with warm, moist air coming in off the Atlantic and turned to rain.

And there was a lot of it, with flood warnings still in effect late Monday for parts of the state.

“The biggest problem area right now is the Piscataquis River from Milo to Abbot,” Lericos said Monday evening. “We are also monitoring the Pleasant River near Brownville.”

Flooded roads and washouts also were reported in a number of places in Washington County, he said, and culverts were blocked in several locations. The state Department of Transportation was out trying to unclog culverts and repair roadways along Route 192 from Machias to Wesley, according to Lericos.

The storm caused problems throughout the Down East region, with authorities reporting downed trees, poles and power lines across the area. With the heavy rains and the melting snow were reports of flooding in areas throughout the region.

In Calais, a section of South Street was closed after a 4-foot culvert collapsed and took much of the road with it. No one was injured. Public works employees reported that the entire road was closed near the Walmart store and that motorists were being detoured down North Street to Main Street to get to the other end of South Street.

Meanwhile, Washington County sheriff’s deputies were dealing with two separate incidents in which vehicles had dropped into sinkholes that developed in roads in Baring and Machias early Monday evening. Both drivers escaped injury, according to a county emergency dispatcher.

Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy John Peterson said the Baring accident occurred when a Pembroke woman hydroplaned on Charlotte Road, causing her green Mustang to leave the roadway. The car landed in a deep, steep ditch and sank, trapping her inside, Peterson said. He said a passer-by helped the woman escape by smashing one of her car’s side windows.

State police in Orono said flooding had washed out portions of Routes 169 and 170 in Prentiss Township.

Areas of southern Piscataquis County had received the most precipitation by Monday evening, with 3 to 4 inches of rain having fallen in Dover-Foxcroft and Greenville.

Bangor had picked up more than 2 inches by Monday evening, while Millinocket had recorded 2 inches. Parts of southern Washington County had gotten between 2 and 3 inches.

In Hancock County, 3.5 inches had fallen on Acadia National Park by nightfall.

Caribou had received .87 inches by Monday night.

The storm also caused scattered outages, with Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reporting as many as 2,800 customers without power Monday morning, most of them in Hancock and Penobscot counties.

As crews restored power in some areas, however, more outages were reported elsewhere. By 5 p.m., only about 500 customers remained without power, 388 of them in Washington County.

Bangor Hydro spokesperson Susan Faloon said some customers in Washington County likely would be without service into Tuesday morning.

Maine Public Service in Aroostook also reported power outages in Presque Isle and Easton.

As rain continued to fall Monday evening, weather service meteorologist Lericos said water levels in the Penobscot and Piscataquis rivers were “going up” and that the weather service and emergency management agencies were monitoring the situation.

“Those will be the places to watch,” he said. “And we will be keeping an eye on them for several days.”

Dover-Foxcroft residents in low-lying areas were advised to be ready to evacuate their homes if needed as the Piscataquis River continued to spill its banks late Monday afternoon.

The river exceeded flood stage at about 3:30 p.m. and was expected to crest at 13 feet before the night was over, according to Tom Capraro of the Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency. Flood stage is 11 feet and the river was at 12½ feet at 3:30 p.m., he said.

“We’re keeping a close eye on it,” Tom Iverson Jr., the agency’s director, said Monday.

The swollen river caused water to pour into the boiler room at the True Textiles-Interface Fabrics Guilford of Maine plant located on the riverbanks in Guilford.

Guilford firefighters assisted millworkers throughout the afternoon, pumping water from the bottom floor.

Water was over the roads in several low-lying areas, including the Katahdin Iron Works Road, the Downes and North Roads in Sebec, the Bates Road and the back Abbot Road in Abbot, and Route 11 in Brownville, Iverson said.

The flood warning and watches are expected to remain in effect until at least 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“Water can rise even after the rain stops,” Lericos said. “So this is something we will be paying attention to throughout the week.”

Bangor Daily News writers Rich Hewitt and Diana Bowley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.