DOVER-FOXCROFT – A weather scenario discussed by a group of officials in a test exercise held Thursday at the Dover-Foxcroft police station was eerily familiar to them.
A slow-moving, low-pressure system was expected to create heavy rainfall in near-record amounts which would push the already swollen Piscataquis River over its banks. The scenario was reminiscent of the flood of 1987, when heavy rainfall and melting snow wreaked havoc in Piscataquis County.
Little planning and preparation was in place for the earlier flood, but should another flood occur, Dover-Foxcroft will be much better prepared thanks to the tabletop exercise that tested the town’s emergency action plan.
“I thought it went very well,” Dover-Foxcroft Town Manager Jack Clukey said of the exercise, which showed what coordination would occur between departments should such a disaster occur in the future.
Those gathered Thursday quickly realized that if the three earthen dams in Dover-Foxcroft that connect to the Piscataquis River were breached, it would be during a flood similar to 1987 but much more damage would occur.
Fortunately, the dams were sturdy enough to hold in the earlier flood, and the likelihood of their breaching in another event is “very low,” Clukey said.
Clukey said the exercise was valuable because it highlighted the roles of police, firefighters, public works, emergency medical providers, and county and state emergency management agency officials.
The key, he said, is preparedness.
For example, local officials will closely monitor weather conditions, keep an eye on water levels, and make sure necessary resources are available.
Just when to notify residents and prepare them for evacuation, where and how much fuel can be obtained, where generators are located, where to obtain food and water, and how to keep spectators at bay were all addressed during the exercise.
Regarding the latter, Dover-Foxcroft Police Chief Dennis Dyer recalled that it was very difficult for police to protect spectators, who were snapping photographs from very precarious places during the 1987 flood. “It was a horror show,” he said.
Dyer also recalled that police and firefighters had difficulty getting some people to leave their homes, especially if they had pets.
“The unfortunate thing I found is people don’t take it serious,” he said.
Brian Mullis, director of Emergency Medical Services at Mayo Regional Hospital, said there is nothing authorities can do if homeowners won’t leave when asked.
Yet, he said, emergency personnel will risk their own lives to save these homeowners when they finally realize they are in danger.
Along with Dyer, Mullis and Clukey, others participating in Thursday’s exercise included Joseph Guyotte, fire chief; Tom Iverson Jr., Piscataquis County emergency management director; Jeff Chambers, public works director; Tim LePrevoste, public works maintenance foreman and manager of the dams; and Randall Rolf of the Maine Emergency Management Agency.