Officials in Hancock and Washington counties on Thursday continued to clean up from the heavy deluge of rain the day before and assess the scope of the damage caused by a storm that overwhelmed road culverts and caused full or partial collapses of several roads.
Gouldsboro, Jonesboro, Machias, Machiasport, Roque Bluffs and Winter Harbor all had roads that were closed at some point during or after the storm, which dumped several inches of rain along the coast from roughly Mount Desert Island to Cobscook Bay.
Two washouts — on West Kennebec Road in Machias and on Great Cove Road in Roque Bluffs — for a time completely cut off a significant portion of the town of Roque Bluffs from vehicle access. Roads also washed out in Jonesboro and Gouldsboro, where normally small creeks swelled into raging rapids that cut through entire cross sections of pavement and roadbeds.
Many longer stretches of road also were damaged, but remained passable, as water coursed along in ditches on either side, washing dirt and gravel into the roadways and eroding the edges of the pavement.
In Acadia National Park, the downpour caused significant erosion in some places, leading to the closure of some carriage paths on MDI and some bicycle paths in the park’s Schoodic section, on the eastern side of Frenchman Bay. Some sections of carriage roads along the lower northern and western sides of Sargent Mountain on Mount Desert Island are expected to be closed for up to two months while they are repaired.
Scientists have said that wetter, more intense storms are an example of how global climate change is manifesting in Maine, where drought conditions can still persist despite occasional heavy downpours. Outdated culverts and drainage systems that cannot handle flash floods produced by such storms have been cited as a factor that can result in significant damage from such events.
More than 5 inches of rain fell in the span of a few hours early Wednesday morning in Bar Harbor, Jonesboro and Perry, according to official data compiled by the National Weather Service. During that same time period Blue Hill, Harrington and Sullivan got between 3 and 4 inches, with lesser amounts measured elsewhere along the coast in the two counties.
“That is a lot of rain in a short period of time,” James Sinko, a meteorologist in the weather service’s Caribou office, said Thursday. “There was a ton of moisture in the atmosphere.”
Most of the downpour occurred between the hours of 3 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, as a cold front moved southwest out of Quebec and then met warmer air that was moving in from farther south along the East Coast, Sinko said. The storm dumped heavy amounts of rain in a narrow band but spared many nearby towns, some of which got less than an inch of rain.
“It was very isolated,” Sinko said. “It wrung it right out over them.”
Lisa Hanscom, Washington County’s emergency management director, lives in Roque Bluffs and said she was awoken early Wednesday morning by a friend who called to say his house was flooding and might wash away. She went to go help him out, she said, but couldn’t get there because flooding and/or damage made the roads out of town impassable.
“I was unable to get out,” she said. “It was raining pretty hard. It was intense.”
In Winter Harbor, fire Chief Tate McLean said he was woken up by thunder at around 4 a.m., and rushed to close his windows, which he had left open because of Tuesday’s hot weather. He then hopped in his truck to go check on things, but didn’t get far because of water flowing over the road.
McLean said that by some local estimates, parts of the Schoodic peninsula got more than 6 inches of rain in about an hour. Some homeowners reported having several inches of water in their basements or first floors during the height of the storm. The Pickled Wrinkle, a popular tavern in the Gouldsboro village of Birch Harbor, just up the hill from where Route 186 washed away, had 6 inches of water flowing through the dining area, he said.
There have been no reports in the Schoodic area of anyone getting hurt, said McLean, who also serves as fire chief in Gouldsboro. Since Wednesday’s storm, the focus has been on repairing and reopening roads but McLean said more information about the extent of damage at local businesses and homes is likely to be compiled over the coming days.
The two neighboring towns will have a sense of the cost of the damage sometime next week, he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this report misspelled the last name of National Weather Service meteorologist James Sinko.