June 5, 2012

Roads, bridges closed

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

High water after days of heavy rain closed some local roads and bridges in central Maine on Monday, but no injuries or significant property damage was reported.

click image to enlarge

A state Department of Transportation worker inspects flooding Cobbossee Stream in the arcade lot between Gardiner between Bridge Street and Maine Avenue. State crews closed bridges on both roads and city officials removed all the vehicles in the arcade lot ahead of flooding.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

Ryan Crouse removes his truck Monday afternoon from the rising Cobbossee Stream in the arcade lot in Gardiner. City officials ordered all the vehicles in the arcade lot be removed ahead of flooding, when Crouse was at work.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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Local public works crews, county emergency management officials and even the state Department of Transportation kept a close eye on the roiling Kennebec River as it spilled over its banks into parking lots and basements.

In Gardiner, state officials closed two bridges over Cobbossee Stream -- one on Bridge Street near Dennis' Pizza and another on Maine Avenue near Harvey's Hardware.

The precautionary move frustrated A1 Diner owner Mike Giberson, who said he can't afford to close the restaurant.

"Even in the flood of '87 it was never closed when the water was butting up against it," he said. "Someone in DOT has it in their head it needs to be closed. That doesn't quite make sense to me."

The state decided to close both bridges because of the pace of the water moving below, not because they feared the water would spill over the bridges, said Randy Prince, a DOT supervisor out of West Gardiner.

"These two bridges are scour critical," he said. "The water is rushing so hard it scours the underneath of the bridges."

DOT wants to go through two more high tide cycles before they decide whether it's safe to reopen the bridges, he said. They will reevaluate the situation this afternoon, he said.

On Monday afternoon, Giberson's diner was full of customers as DOT crews unloaded blockades that they set beside the bridge in preparation for the closure.

In 1987, the Kennebec crested at 34.1 feet. Predictions for this storm called for the river to reach 15 feet, 4 inches before it recedes by midday Wednesday, according to the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency. The river was 25 percent to 35 percent wider than normal on Monday, according to Sean Goodwin, deputy director of the agency.

In Augusta, Front Street, downtown along the west bank of the Kennebec, was flooded, water lapping the backs of the buildings that line Water Street. At the East Side Boat Landing, the docks were battered and buckled by the fast-moving water, prompting city crews to remove them in the afternoon.

Hallowell closed its Front Street, a dirt road that runs along the river, putting up signs warning drivers not to park too close to the water. By late afternoon, water was on the doorstep of The Kennebec Wharf, but had not yet seeped inside.

Gardiner closed two parking areas, the Arcade and Waterfront parking lots. Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said that since those lots have been closed, people are allowed to park without time limits on any city street.

State transportation officials announced other road closures on Monday: Thorofare Road, from Richmond to Litchfield, between U.S. Route 201 and Plains Road; Route 197 in Richmond, off U.S. 201; and the bridge on Plains and Pond roads that goes over Cobbossee Stream.

In Skowhegan, public works officials said they were on standby throughout the day, but did not report any significant damage or flooding from the Kennebec.

Wet weather abates

Meteorologist James Brown with the National Weather Service in Gray said 3 to 5 inches of rain fell in the Augusta area through Monday morning. He said that although spots in southern Maine got closer to 8 inches, the rainfall in central Maine was more than enough to cause some flooding.

"The weather will somewhat improve," he said. "We won't be having the heavier bands of rain."

The forecast calls for rain through Thursday, although it is predicted to result in less than half an inch of additional rain in the Augusta area.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Matt LeClair drives through the flooding Cobbossee Stream in Gardiner on Monday afternoon while evacuating a friend's vehicle. The arcade lot, along Cobbossee Stream, flooded following heavy rain.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy


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