February 16, 2019
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Brownville flooding was almost a perfect storm, meteorologist says

BROWNVILLE, Maine — It wasn’t a perfect storm, but the heavy rainfall that flooded Brownville over the weekend was about as close as meteorologist Ken Wallingford expects to see.

The storm, Wallingford said, dumped at least 6 inches of rain on the town in two or three hours, and about 8 inches overall, because of random meteorological events not unlike those in the movie “The Perfect Storm” featuring George Clooney.

“In a perfect world and almost all the time, weather systems move, and that’s a good thing,” Wallingford said Monday. “It’s very rare that you have situations where things come together the way they did on Saturday night.”

A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, Wallingford said the Brownville storm resembled the perfect storm in that it was a large system that gathered great force and stalled.

“For something of that magnitude to sit there for that long like it did is a very rare occurrence,” Wallingford said.

The storm hit Brownville especially hard because the area’s steep hills gave the flooding greater force. The ground had been pretty well soaked by previous storms, Wallingford said. He did not know why the storm stalled over the town.

One big difference between Brownville’s storm and that in the movie, which is based on a nonfiction novel by Sebastian Junger: “The Perfect Storm” was actually two weather systems that merged and stalled, not one.

Still, the one that hit Brownville was enough for Mike Washburn, who operates Joe’s Repair Shop at 270 Main Road with his father, Joe.

The younger Washburn was home at 7:30 p.m. Saturday feeling pretty good after having had a beer when he got a call that he had better come back to work. When he arrived, Washburn saw waist-high water flowing down the steep incline of High Street into the shop, enough to separate the garage’s cement-slab floor from its walls.

“The whole slab was dropping out and you could see the outside of the shop through the hole from the inside,” Washburn said.

“That,” Washburn added, “was a real buzz kill.”

A half-dozen Maine Department of Transportation workers rebuilt High Street on Sunday and were finishing trenches along the road on Monday as Washburn and workers with a private company repaired the shop. On Tuesday, the MDOT crews will install driveway pipes along the road, said Bob Davis, a state crew supervisor.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since the 1987 flood,” Davis said.

Milo resident Keith Porter speculated that the High and Church streets intersection with Route 11 was the storm’s ground zero. He drove through on Sunday morning and couldn’t believe there was no news of the storm’s impact on Brownville.

The storm was difficult to predict because the area hit was so small, Wallingford said.

“We didn’t know what happened,” Porter said. “People who came through and saw it were just dumbfounded. Never seen anything like this before.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote. "The storm was difficult to predict because the area hit was so small," should be attributed to Ken Wallingford, not Mike Washburn.

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