FRANKLIN COUNTY – April showers bring May floods, at least in Franklin County.
Heavy rains across the region Sunday night into Monday resulted in severe flooding as rivers and streams flowed over the banks, swamping houses, stores, parks, fields, and roads.
Some areas of the county recorded anywhere from seven to eight and a half or more inches of rain accumulation during the storm, with many people reporting about five inches in twelve hours.
Monday morning, area school districts announced that there may be delays on the bus routes for picking up students; by mid-morning, district administrators, in collaboration with public works and emergency services, decided to send students home early before the road conditions deteriorated further.
Tuesday morning, RSU 9 canceled school due to ongoing concerns about road safety across the district. Other school districts in Franklin County held school as planned.
The Monday morning commute was treacherous at times, with roadways flooded or washed out. Among others, teachers and school staff reported difficulty getting home from work. At different points throughout the day it was impossible to travel from the southern end of the county to the northern end due to the travel conditions.
Based on dispatch logs provided by Franklin County Regional Communications Center, first responders across the county responded to over 100 calls on Monday, a majority of which were related to the storm. Calls ranged from rescuing stranded motorists who attempted to drive through flooded roadways, to service calls for flooded basements and roadway hazards.
Throughout the day Monday, Franklin County Emergency Management Agency was notified of approximately 40 roadways that were closed to travel. By Tuesday morning, EMA reported an estimated 26 roadways that remained closed or not fully passable from one end to the other.
Franklin EMA was not aware of any injuries or fatalities related to the storm and flooding event.
In Farmington, the Sandy River flooded the banks and swamped the downtown area of Main Street and Front Street. Gifford’s Ice Cream, McDonalds, Irving, the Quick Mart, and Walgreens were all inaccessible throughout most of the day Monday, with water extending into the Park & Ride on Main Street. Vehicles were removed from University of Maine at Farmington parking lots on Front Street and from the Park & Ride for safety.
Narrow Gauge Cinemas closed for the day on Monday – a rare occurrence – and then dealt with rising flood waters approaching the Big Sky Grill. Owner John Moore said that nearly a dozen people showed up to help secure the building by creating a berm wall with sandbags, blocking the water from reaching the building.
On the Wilton Road, the Ice Cream Shoppe sits on the banks of the Sandy River. The owners reached out via social media for assistance removing equipment from the shop due to the river flooding the building, and members of the community stepped in to help out. The owners reported late Monday night that all of the equipment was removed safely and that most of the water had been pumped out of the building. By Tuesday afternoon they were working to clean out and get the shop back in working order.
The New Sharon Fire Department reported temporary closures on Route 27/Mile Hill Road due to a culvert washing out of the roadway. Route 27 has since been reopened, although the temporary fix is rough and caution is advised.
As of Tuesday morning, the Starks Road was technically passable although the fire department advised extreme caution as the east-bound lane is undercut from flooding and extremely dangerous.
Routes 234 and 27 in New Vineyard flooded at both the northern and the southern intersections. These areas both flooded in December 2022 during the storm over Christmas. Later in the day Monday, the water receded so the roads were passable.
North on 27 in New Portland, the fire department was out early Monday morning to assist with recovering a vehicle that went off the road into deep water.
In Phillips, a chicken coop reportedly floated by someone’s house, heading south down the Sandy River. (It is the wrong time of year for the birds to be flying south, but maybe these ones took a cruise?)
In addition to responding to road closures and other incidents, the Phillips Fire Department was called to help evacuate a family from their residence after the home became completely surrounded with water, Fire Chief James Gould said.
The East Madrid Road and the Weld Road in Phillips both suffered severe damage due to flooding, with parts of the roads completely washed out. Other roads were also closed down due to the damage.
In Carrabassett Valley on Bigelow Hill, the Carrabassett Valley Police Department shared photos and a video of the southbound lane of Route 27; the pavement was broken open with rushing water visible underneath. A bridge between Twinbrook and Brackett Brook was temporarily closed due to flooding, and the south end of Campbell Field Road washed out as well.
In downtown Kingfield, flood waters came close to spilling over into the Mill Street parking area along the dam. Fields along the Carrabassett River and West Branch were flooded over, and a small bridge on West Kingfield Road was temporarily closed due to being underwater.
The Franklin County Commissioners voted during their board meeting Tuesday afternoon to delay removal of road posted signage until Monday, May 8. The dirt roads in the unorganized territories are soft, damaged, and in some places impassable, County Road Commissioner Mike Pond reported. Delaying the ‘unposting’ of the roads will hopefully allow time for the roads to dry out.
This is an incomplete list of road impacts and closures during the event. Many roads remain closed but public work crews and the Maine Department of Transportation crews are out working to stabilize, patch, and re-open roadways. Proceed with caution and observe road closure signs.
Safety and Resources:
Franklin EMA is working to submit documentation for a Disaster Declaration which, if approved, would open up potential resources for the community for disaster relief funding and support. In the meantime, there may be local and municipal support available for those in need.
Did you lose power at your residence or business? The American Red Cross states that food items in a refrigerator should stay cold for 2-4 hours without power, while items in a full freezer may stay cold for up to 48 hours. Perishable items such as meat, dairy, and eggs may be at risk of spoiling while refrigerated fruits and vegetables may be safe to eat, as long as they are not contaminated by other foods.
United Way of the Tri-Valley Area has a list of local food pantries and other resources available on their website.
Western Maine Community Action offers a variety of social service programs for the Greater Franklin County area. For more information, visit their website.
The American Red Cross offers a variety of information for navigating the aftermath of a disaster. This information can be found at www.redcross.org/get-help
Municipalities in Franklin County offer General Assistance to residents. The General Assistance is a short-term program supported by both the municipality and the State that offers financial aid for basic necessities such as food, fuel, electricity, and shelter. Residents in need should contact their local municipal office for eligibility requirements and additional information.
Additional information and resources may be found at211maine.orgor by calling 211, or texting your zipcode to 898-211.
With more rain in the forecast for this week, there is potential for additional flooding issues, especially on already damaged roadways. Plan extra time for necessary travel and stay safe!