Flood watch remains in effect through Friday

Posted April 17, 2014, at 7:41 p.m.

ALLAGASH, Maine — Residents of Allagash and St. Francis were stranded by floodwaters Thursday, and the National Weather Service in Caribou extended its flood warning for northern Maine through late Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Main Street businesses in Dexter that were shut down Wednesday due to safety concerns reopened Thursday and residents of a mobile home park who were evacuated for the same reason were able to return.

Maine has been under a flood watch since Monday, when mild temperatures and rain resulted in significant snow melt, raising river levels and creating ice jams. By late Thursday afternoon, the potential for flooding appeared to be receding somewhat in other parts of the state.

In northern Aroostook County on Thursday, a 5-mile-long ice jam on the St. John River at the St. Francis-St. John Plantation town line caused flooding and shut down a portion of Route 161.

Until the road reopens, residents of St. Francis and Allagash have no way in or out of their towns.

On Wednesday, the east branch of the Sebasticook River spilled over its banks at Dexter, prompting the evacuation of homes and buildings in low-lying parts of the town. The rushing water also washed out the Lincoln Street bridge.

“I hope it’s over,” Town Manager Shelley Watson said with a sigh late Thursday afternoon.

Lower Lincoln Street remained closed and likely will stay that way until ground conditions improve enough to allow highway crews to repair the section of roadway that washed out after four large culverts failed and had to be removed, along with a chunk of pavement that once covered them.

Also still closed Thursday was the entrance to the municipal parking lot near Water Street, Watson said.

Farther south, cresting water along the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers in Orono also resulting in a flood warning Thursday morning. As of Thursday evening, however, no major flooding problems had been reported, Orono police Sgt. Dan Merrill said.

Pushaw Lake, however, was another matter, with flooding on the lower ends of Goulds Landing, Orono Landing and Villa Vaughn roads, he said. The potential for more flooding is expected to remain until ice out, he said.

According to a report issued by the weather service Thursday morning, rivers and streams across Aroostook County were at high levels and ice jams had been reported on the Aroostook River in Masardis.

The ice jam on the Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield had released and water levels had dropped.

Floods are still a possibility in northern Maine until all the ice has cleared from the rivers, and officials warn residents and motorists to be cautious around rising waters.

A Caswell man was killed Tuesday after being swept downstream when he fell into an open culvert hidden by floodwaters on Oliver Road.

Paul Oliver had just moved his truck across the dirt road and was on his way home on foot when the accident occurred. Wardens recovered his body Wednesday morning about 20 yards downstream from that culvert.

The weather service also issued warnings of imminent or reported flooding of the Androscoggin River near Auburn in Androscoggin County and the Sebasticook River, affecting Kennebec, Somerset and Waldo counties.

The Kennebec River was above flood stage in Augusta and North Sydney and expected to drop sometime Friday, Tom Hawley, a hydrologist with the weather service office in Gray, reported Thursday morning.

“The cold weather last night really helped slow things down,” he said. “And it’s really going to be nice the next couple days to melt the snow.”

Temperatures, which climbed into the 50s during the day, were expected to drop down below freezing at night, Hawley said, with no major precipitation events expected over the next week.

The Maine Department of Transportation’s website contains up-to-date information at about any roads around the state that are closed due to flooding.

Meanwhile, The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle teamed up with LifeFlight of Maine to assist as needed if northern Maine residents need medical transport out of flood areas cut off due to road closures. The hospital took this step after local flooding caused road and bridge closures that isolated the east side of Fort Fairfield as well as the community of Washburn, according to Daryl Boucher, director of emergency services and critical care at TAMC.