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The Maine Department of Transportation reopened the Fish River Bridge in Fort Kent Wednesday morning as water levels receded in the Fish River. Though more heavy rain is expected Friday night into Saturday, officials are cautiously optimistic about avoiding major flooding this spring.
The Transportation Department closed the bridge to traffic at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday in response to rising river water that reached the bottom of the structure that connects East and West Main streets in the downtown area. Area residents were still able to use another bridge further south connecting Pleasant Street to Market Street to get from one side of town to the other.
The National Weather Service indicated the Fish River was at 10.95 feet on Tuesday and anticipated it to crest at 11.2 feet by Wednesday. At 11 feet, which is considered flood stage, minor flooding threatens camps and homes south of Fort Kent on the Fish River chain of lakes.
The weather service cancelled its flood warning for the Fish River Tuesday evening, however, as the river dropped to 10.8 feet.
The St. John River also fell below flood stage Wednesday morning, prompting the weather service to cancel a flood warning for that river, which crested at about 23.3 feet on Tuesday. Flood stage is 22.5 feet for the St. John, and at 22.7 feet, it overflows into the SW Collins lumber yard and Blockhouse Park in town and well as several back yards on East Main Street.
At 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, the water level of the St. John River measured 22.3 feet.
Water levels on both of the major rivers will continue to decline, according to meteorologist Mark Bloomer of the National Weather Service in Caribou.
“The larger rivers are slowly coming down, but there may be some small streams and low lying areas of flooding with Friday nights’ and Saturday’s rain,” Bloomer said.
That rain is expected to range anywhere from an inch to 1.5 inches, according to Bloomer.
“It will have to be watched though because not all the snow is melted yet,” Bloomer said.
The snowpack varies throughout The County, Bloomer said.
“We just have a trace here at the station but I think in the higher woods there is still 3 to 6 inches or so,” he said.
Fort Kent Emergency Management Director Ed Endee, who is also the town’s fire chief, said that although the town remains vigilant in monitoring local flood potential, if the current rain forecast holds steady, the worst of the flooding may be behind us this year.
“The rivers are expected to go down dramatically before the weekend so we should be able to handle that without too much difficulty,” Endee said. “Naturally we will continue to watch the river gauges and act accordingly, so we should be OK.”
There does appear to be some brighter news in terms of the weather forecast.
“Sunday should be mostly sunny and nice,” Bloomer said.
This story was originally published in the Fiddlehead Focus.
Related: Officials close Fish River Bridge in Fort Kent