February 24, 2020
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State floodwaters receding, but damage remains

MASARDIS, Maine — Douglas MacDonald’s house has a caved-in cellar wall and a destroyed heating system that leaks kerosene. His basement was flooded until firefighters drained it Friday. Despite all that, MacDonald said his family and home aren’t the hardest hit by Aroostook River flooding.

That claim belongs to his Masardis Road neighbor Larry Carney.

“I just had flooding in my basement, but the first floor of his house was flooded. His downstairs is gone,” MacDonald said Friday. “I would say their house is pretty well destroyed. All their appliances, furniture, everything got wiped out when the water came in.”

Mark Turner, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said the flooding caused by rains earlier this week that combined with river ice jams and heavy snowmelts had receded markedly by Friday. Northern and midcoast areas were hardest hit by the storm.

Gov. John Baldacci plans to see MacDonald and Carney and tour their neighborhood when he visits Aroostook County today, Aroostook Emergency Management Agency Director Vern Ouellette said.

“We have families displaced, it’s a holiday weekend, and we want to make sure that those folks know that they are not alone,” said David Farmer, Baldacci’s spokesman.

Baldacci toured flooded areas in Knox and Waldo counties on Wednesday. State officials continue to compile data, but they don’t expect that the recent flooding will qualify Maine for federal relief funds.

“It doesn’t look likely, but we will see what we learn tomorrow,” Farmer said Friday.

The federal threshold calls for damage costs statewide of at least $1.67 million. If that threshold is reached, the governor may declare a state of emergency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency may recommend a presidential declaration. Should the president issue such a declaration, the federal government reimburses towns for 90 percent of disaster repair costs.

As of Friday, Turner said, flood warnings or watches were still in effect in the following areas:

ä The St. John River near Van Buren to Grand Falls Dam in New Brunswick, which had a huge ice jam. “It’s just sitting there,” Turner said. “The water seems to be going through it, but it is creating some floodwaters in the farmlands above Van Buren.”

ä On the Aroostook River in Masardis, where a jam moved downstream past Garfield Bridge, and between Washburn and Presque Isle in Crouseville at Route 164. The road remained closed Friday.

ä In Island Falls, where several rivers and streams had flooded backyards where waterways meet.

ä In Mattawamkeag, where the Mattawamkeag River remained at flood stage Friday, and Bancroft Road was flooded.

ä In Milford, Greenfield Road was flooded.

ä Some roads in Pembroke in Washington County also were flooded Friday.

“With all that rain we had last weekend, there were several areas Down East that received 2 or 2½ inches of rain, so there’s still flood damage around, but everything seems to have gone back down below flood stage,” Turner said.

The National Weather Service indicated Friday evening that a flood warning would remain in effect until 9:15 a.m. Saturday for north central Penobscot County, northeastern Piscataquis County and Aroostook County.

Except for a rainstorm expected to drop no more than a quarter-inch of rain on the state’s southern regions, the weekend forecast portends well for the flooded areas. Expect mostly clear skies and windy conditions, with spring daytime temperatures and cold nights, Turner said.

“Everything is receding. If it weren’t for these persistent ice jams, we would be sitting pretty,” he said.

For Douglas and Mechelle MacDonald, the receding of the floodwaters is allowing them to start repairing their home, but is not alleviating their uncertainty, especially since Douglas MacDonald is unemployed. MacDonald and several neighbors were laid off in January from the Fraser Timber Inc. lumber mill in Masardis, and the MacDonalds lack flood insurance.

“Everybody else is back in their homes. They was able to dry stuff out,” he said. “We don’t know where to turn.”


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