ORONO, Maine — The rising Stillwater River forced University of Maine officials to close the steam plant parking lot Wednesday morning as water spilled over the banks.
“It’s a precaution,” said Alan Stormann, UMaine’s assistant director of the parking, transportation and security. “We’re asking people to more their vehicles out of the steam plant parking lot. We are expecting the river to rise another 8 to 10 inches.”
The river was expected to crest at around 1 p.m., said Tom Robertson, director of the Penobscot County Emergency Management Agency.
Some students were notified by a mass e-mail sent out by university officials and others were contacted by telephone, Stormann said.
The rising waters breached the river’s shore before 11 a.m. and a dozen or so cars were towed from the parking lot. Students, some in pajamas, raced to move their cars before the flood waters reached the vehicles.
Sophomore Ashley Kolofsky, who is studying zoology and marine science, had parked her car in the first row of the steam plant parking lot, directly beside the river.
“I was worried my car was one of the ones towed,” she said as she used an ice scraper to remove snow from her car before moving it.
Her roommate at her dorm, Hancock Hall, informed her after reading the e-mail alert. Sophomore Dale Lawrence, who is studying civil engineering, also said his roommate at Hancock informed him.
“I just woke up,” he said as he cleaned the snow off his car. “I’m just going to move it to higher ground and hope it doesn’t flood.”
Robertson predicted just before noon that any flooding would not be as bad as previously predicted.
“I think our crests are going to be lower than what we thought because it warmed up last night,” he said. “Right now, everything seems to be holding good.”
Flood stage for the Penobscot River is 11 feet, 6 inches, and at noon Wednesday the river was at around 6.5 feet, Robertson said. A gauge at the confluence of the Penobscot River and Kenduskeag Stream had a reading of 8.6 feet at midnight, he said.
“We don’t have any gauge on the Stillwater, but it’s rising,” Robertson said. “Up north, they had 12 to 14 inches of snow on the ground,” which contributed to higher water levels downstream as it melted.
There also is flooding in the West Enfield area, Robertson said.
He said no major roads were closed in Penobscot County.