FRANKLIN COUNTY – An estimated five to six inches of rain over a short span of time resulted in severe flooding in southern Franklin County Thursday night, with repairs expected to take several weeks.
Franklin County Regional Communications Center reported that the first calls related to the flooding and road conditions came in around 4 p.m. Thursday, June 29, and continued throughout the evening. The storm appeared to have the most impact in Jay, Wilton, Chesterville, Farmington, and surrounding areas, including Canton in Oxford County. With roads flooded and washed out, emergency response personnel were kept busy. Franklin RCC logged approximately 30 calls for road hazards and other issues between 4 p.m. Thursday and noon Friday.
Maine Department of Transportation held a media briefing on Friday, June 30 at 3 p.m. at the Maine DOT lot in Wilton. Maine DOT spokesperson Paul Merrill reported that Routes 133, 140, and 156 in the Wilton and Jay areas seemed to be the state roads most impacted by the flooding.
Merrill noted that during the summer, Maine DOT employees typically work four 10-hour days; about 40 crew members came in to work on Friday after a full work week, to help with the aftermath of the storm.
Maine DOT crews and contractor partners will continue working through the holiday weekend to reopen roads, Merrill said. Routes 156 and 140 are expected to be reopened in the next few days, but Route 133 will likely take several weeks to fully reopen. The southern side of Route 133, south of the intersection with Route 156, is the most damaged and will take the longest to repair.
In addition, Maine DOT crews are working to repair driveway entrances on impacted highways to allow residents to safely access their homes.
Merrill said that people who live on impacted highways can travel on the highway for essential needs, using extreme caution and staying well away from visible washouts and damaged areas. Emergency services can also access the highways when needed. All other traffic should avoid the impacted roadways and follow the detour signage.
Drone imaging video provided by Maine DOT.
Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere shared, “Our town was hit very hard in the storm last night. We have been out assessing roads all day and our crews are working as quickly as they can to try to restore areas.”
There are several places where entire sections of road were lost and traffic cannot get through. These include sections on Davenport Hill Road, Look Brooke, Macomber Hill Road (at the bottom of the hill near Route 4 and on the Plaisted Road end), Begin Road, Davis Road, Soules Hill Road, East Jay Road (Chesterville end), Canton Mountain Road, Hutchinson Road and Davenport Hill Road.
“We realize the inconvenience this causes our whole community but we appreciate your patience as we work through this,” LaFreniere said. “It will not be a quick process and many of the roads will not be fixed for an extended period. We are working with several contractors to help supplement our crew but it will take time.”
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry reported Friday afternoon that the Whistle Stop trail from Farmington to Routes 2&4 in Wilton has reopened. From Routes 2&4 in Wilton to Jay is closed indefinitely due to extensive washouts.
Farmington Public Works Director Phil Hutchins said that in Farmington, the only non-passable road is the Webster Road. There were three ‘extravagant’ culvert washouts on the Webster Road and crews stayed out until 1 a.m. Friday morning to make two out of three necessary repairs to prevent residents from being totally blocked off. Hutchins expects to have the Webster Road reopened by Monday.
While it is not uncommon to have severe weather events in Maine, Merrill said, this storm was a major weather event that exceeds the scope of damages caused in other recent events.
It is too early in the process to begin estimating costs of repairs, both Hutchins and Merrill reported. Local, county, and state agencies are working with Franklin County Emergency Management Agency and Maine Emergency Management Agency to assess conditions and costs of repairs.
Public safety, along with state and local road crews, are urging caution; limit travel on damaged roads to essential local needs only; travel at lower speeds and avoid damaged shoulders; follow road signage and guidance; and exercise patience as crews work through this unexpected incident.