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Recovery Continues Across Maine After a Month of Storms

About one month ago, a powerful storm tore through New England, bringing over a half foot of rain and wind gusts of 70-90mph. This storm knocked out power to about 750,000 customers in New England and widespread river flooding.

Maine bore the brunt of this system as the state saw over 500,000 outages and what the USGS called the second worst flooding in the state's history. Earlier this week, Maine's governor officially requested a major disaster declaration for this storm.

Damage to public infrastructure from December's storm is estimated to be around 20 million dollars. Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties were among the hardest hit in December. Those counties saw 13 properties completely destroyed and over 100 heavily damaged.

The Kennebec River was one of a handful of rivers that saw major flooding. While many businesses have cleaned up and reopened, some remain closed. The city of Gardiner, which the Kennebec River cuts through, saw some of the worst flooding. Some businesses remain closed a month after the floods. The local Hannaford Supermarket in the city remains closed as of January 19th after being submerged under the floods for days after the storm.

Images from inside of that Hannaford are similar to what the Sterling Market in Johnson, Vermont looked like after the devastating July floods in that state. The Sterling Market is not going to reopen due to the risk of future flooding. There is no word on any timetable for Hannaford's reopening.

Hannaford in Gardiner, Maine after the floods. Credit: 92 Moose

The Maine business relief fund began accepting applications for grants on January 4th. Applications were originally set to be accepted through January 31st, but, as of January 19th, the applications process has been closed. The fund stated that the process was closed early due to limited funds and that applications would be accepted again if additional funds become available.

Volunteers from Kentucky and North Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief were working in Mexico, Maine since the December floods to assist with flooded homes and meals. Mexico saw up to 50 residents displaced by the floods. The Kentucky team last week.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief working inside a flooded home in Mexico. Credit: Kentucky Today

Last week, two back to back powerful storms brought more heavy rain, damaging winds and a threat not seen in December: coastal flooding. The January 10th storm saw much worse coastal flooding than expected. Portland experienced its third highest tide on record. This caused unexpectedly major damage along the coast.

Just three days later, a historic coastal flooding event unfolded, compounding on the already reeling coastal community. Portland would set a new all-time highest tide on record on January 13th.

After the January 10th storm, Maine's governor declared a civil emergency along the coast. On Wednesday, Maine once again took the first step toward requesting another major disaster declaration. Much of the coastal community is still in document and report mode. MEMA has asked that damage from the January 13th storm be reported by January 22nd.

Parts of the Maine coast have been permanently transformed by these storms. Many wharves, piers, buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed up and down the coast. As of January 17th, MEMA has already received over 500 damage assessment reports. Island Institute is offering grants of up to 5,000 dollars for working waterfront businesses.

Work on beach erosion and seawall damage in Kennebunk and Biddeford. Credits: WMTW; WGME

Piles of debris have been stacked up alongside roads and industrial sized dumpsters now sit in front yards as residents and business owners continue to clear out damage. Long standing homes and landmarks were damaged or destroyed. Construction is underway in Biddeford to remove eroded areas and rubble. Significant beach erosion and damaged seawalls have left coastal communities more exposed to future storms.

South Portland's iconic fish shacks will likely be rebuilt after being swept into the ocean. These shacks stood for over 100 years prior to this storm. After the storm, residents were seen piling up any remaining pieces that they could find along the beach.

The total cost of damages from these two coastal storms is still very much being calculated. Recovery from these January storms will be a months-long process in some coastal areas, much like what inland areas are facing after December's river flooding.

New England has faced five storms since mid-December, three of which were high impact systems. While these storms brought impacts to all six New England states, Maine bore the brunt of all of them. Just as the state finished the process to request a major disaster declaration, the process had to be restarted for a different storm.



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