FREEPORT, Maine — Nurse Elizabeth Toothaker never imagined what she’d be coming home to while she was working the third shift at Mercy Hospital on the night of Aug. 13.
She soon found out she couldn’t get home at all.
Turkey Ridge Lane, Toothaker’s private road off Betty’s Way and Fernald Road, had been destroyed by high water and strong currents from a torrential rain storm.
The dirt road slopes down and then back up as it heads up to the homes of Toothaker and her neighbor, who was home the night of the storm. Toothaker said a ravine 25-feet deep was created by the deluge of water.
“We were trapped,” said Toothaker, who has lived in Freeport her entire life. “We couldn’t get in and she couldn’t get out.”
According to the National Weather Service in Gray, 6.43 inches of rain fell in Portland on Aug. 13, with 4.2 inches falling from 9-11 p.m.
Toothaker has lived at the end of the road for 10 years since she had it built after her parents gave her the land for her home. Because it is a private road, the town is unable to provide assistance to Toothaker and her neighbor, Arleen Siegert-Young, for repairing the impassable road.
“That was the most significant damage from the storm,” Town Manager Peter Joseph said. “The damage to their road was almost as much as all the other damages combined.”
Joseph was sympathetic and Toothaker said he spent over an hour talking with her about her options. Toothaker, who is recently divorced, was living alone after her children left home and prior to the storm had to bring in a housemate to afford staying in her home. Her housemate, Mike Shea is now helping Toothaker find the funds to rebuild her road.
Shea created a page on GoFundMe.com to help with the costs. As of Wednesday, Aug. 27, $960 had been donated. She will need much more.
Toothaker was originally given a quote of $85,000 to fix the road, not including $10,000 guard rails that would have to be rebuilt. She said Siegert-Young spoke with a different contractor and was quoted $45,000, not including the guard rails.
If the two decided to go with the second quote, Toothaker estimated her half of the bill would be around $31,000.
Toothaker said Siegert-Young has the money to start rebuilding right now, but Toothaker can’t do that. She said she has to refinance her entire property and work with her former spouse, who is still on the mortgage.
Toothaker has found a less expensive option, but she said Siegert-Young may be against it: Toothaker wants to build a new road at a different location, requiring her to work with a neighbor who lives nearby.
She wants to build a road that goes across the neighbor’s property, essentially providing a back way out. Because she doesn’t have the money to pay this neighbor, she said she may have to give him some of her land.
“I want to look into this other option before dumping money into (the original road),” Toothaker said.
To get home the first time after the storm, Toothaker said she had to hike through the woods, down railroad tracks, and over a small river. She ended up having to buy an ATV to make the journey each time.
“It’s completely inconvenient for everything, but you have to deal with these things,” she said.
Toothaker said getting a road rebuilt can be done fairly quickly once the money is in place. But she and Siegert-Young also have to agree on the solution.
“It’s been quite stressful,” Toothaker said. “It’s hard, because we have to agree on a plan and I don’t think we’re on the same page.”
Because Siegert-Young wanted a way off the property, she had a contractor partially fill in the gully created by the storm. She then had her car dragged across and put on the other side. There is now a dirt path that can be walked over, although it can’t bear the weight of a car.
While negotiating with Siegert-Young, Toothaker said she will continue trying to come up with money for the road project. She said she is wary of rebuilding Turkey Ridge Lane because she now knows what can happen and is worried it could wash away again.
“We never thought we’d lose the road completely,” Toothaker said. “I have anxiety now that I know the worst can happen.”