April 23, 2018
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‘It may be until spring before we know the full extent of the damage’ of the blizzard

Contributed photo courtesy of York County Coast Star
Contributed photo courtesy of York County Coast Star
Luanne MacDonald, owner of Hurricane Restaurant in Kennebunkport, surveys the flooding at her restaurant caused by the Jan. 4 storm.
By Donna Buttarazzi, York County Coast Star

Luanne MacDonald, owner of Hurricane Restaurant in Kennebunkport, watched during the height of last Thursday’s storm as flood waters rose into her Dock Square business. She was forced to call the fire department when electrical outlets in the kitchen began smoking and sparking.

Fire crews were able to cut power to the restaurant, but ankle deep water flowed through the old building and caused extensive damage.

“It may be until spring before we know the full extent of the damage. We will need a new carpet and maybe hardwood floors,” she said. “Our menus were floating around in the water.”

MacDonald said she lost the hot water heater and brand new A/C units, and possibly the dishwasher.

Last Thursday’s blizzard, dubbed a “bomb cyclone” by meteorologists brought high winds and an astronomical King Tide that caused flooding along the coast. The storm brought near-record high tides to New England. Portland saw its highest tide since the Blizzard of ’78, the tide rising to 13.79 feet above normal, according to National Weather Service senior meteorologist John Cannon.

MacDonald said she has experienced high tides in the past, usually in October with full moons, and aptly, during hurricane season.

“This is the worst winter storm in the 18 years we’ve been at this location,” she said.

The National Weather Service in Gray reported close to a foot of snow in towns across York County with 10.6 inches in Kennebunk, 12 inches in Biddeford and 9.8 inches in Ogunquit, according to meteorologist Eric Schwibs.

Thursday’s noon-time high tide caused significant impact flooding roadways along the coast in Wells and Cape Porpoise, as well as Kennebunkport’s Dock Square. The Mathew J. Lanigan Bridge, which connects Kennebunk’s Lower Village and Dock Square, was closed for a time Thursday afternoon due to the tide.

Several shops along the river in Dock Square were flooded during the storm surge, while others escaped unscathed. The Copper Candle reported on its Facebook page that the flood waters stopped short of causing any damage to the store. Day Trip Jr. was flooded and spent the days after the storm cleaning up, but was open for business again on Sunday.

Kennebunkport officials spent last Friday driving around town assessing the damage. Code Enforcement Officer Werner Gilliam did a quick assessment of properties along the Kennebunk River on Ocean Avenue and said “we didn’t see anything really significant.

“We didn’t see any structural damage, just water damage,” he said. “If someone was available at the business we stopped to check in.”

He said the business owners that he and Assistant Code Enforcement Officer Wayne Mathews touched base with seemed to have a handle on the situation Friday morning.

Gilliam also checked on the dunes at Goose Rocks Beach with an eye toward dune erosion, but found them to be in good shape.

“We found little movement out there. I suspect it was because it was frozen solid. We probably got spared any significant erosion out at the beach due to the recent frigid temperatures,” he said.

If there’s a bright side, Gilliam said it’s fortunate the high tide happened during a snowstorm. If it had been a rain event, the outcome could have been significantly worse.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in 12 years,” Gilliam said. “We’ve seen water in the (Dock Square) parking lot for sure, this is the first time I’ve seen it come up over Ocean Avenue and into the square. The Patriot’s Day storm (2007) was the next closest.”

“This was not a great experience for folks, but if it had been later in the season we may have seen much worse flooding. We were lucky with the speed of the storm, it was just one tide cycle fortunately, and then it moved out,” he said.

Following the storm, temperatures plummeted over the weekend leaving ice and snow covered roads behind, and making snow removal efforts by public works crews nearly futile in some areas. Kennebunk Police officers reported near white out conditions, and severe drifting on Route 99 near the Blueberry Plains Thursday night even after the storm had passed.

Kennebunk Town Manager Mike Pardue said the Public Works Department was down to just one sidewalk plow, and asked for patience from residents as crews worked to clear the roughly 30 miles of sidewalks in town.

Kennebunk Fire Chief Jeff Rowe urged people to remember to shovel out at least two exits from their home, and offer to help any elderly neighbors who might need a hand with removing snow from their exits as well.

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