December 12, 2019

Wet weather waterlogs much of Maine

MADAWASKA – Rain, rain and more rain has turned the northern Maine woods into a muddy terrain, and most logging operations have been shut down.

Meanwhile, high winds Friday uprooted trees from soggy soils, knocking out power to thousands of utility users in other parts of the state.

Brooks, streams and rivers are swollen, running like they do during the spring melt in April. Lakes in northern Maine are at record heights.

More than 4.17 inches of rain have fallen in Caribou since Nov. 1. The normal amount for the period is 1.6 inches. Meteorologists said rain amounts have been even higher in the St. John Valley and the northwestern Maine woods.

The St. John River at Fort Kent was running at 16 feet Tuesday, about 10 feet higher than normal in November. Flood stage is 27 feet.

Central Maine Power Co. said it had restored power by Friday afternoon to the bulk of the 13,000 customers who had experienced outages earlier in the day. Most of those affected were in the Skowhegan, Dover-Foxcroft and Brunswick areas.

Days of rain and drizzle were accompanied by high winds and unseasonably warm weather with temperatures ranging as high as 64 degrees in Augusta, and 63 in Caribou and Bangor on Friday. The National Weather Service posted advisories warning of wind gusts up to 55 mph in some areas.

In addition to several uprooted trees, six utility poles were broken by the powerful wind, CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said. The Maine Emergency Management Agency said outages also were reported in Hancock County, and there were outages in northern Waldo County.

Ken White, the Ashland east unit manager for the Seven Islands Land Management Co., said his area in northwestern Maine has received more than 8 inches of rain since Oct. 18.

Mark Bloomer, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service at Caribou, said Friday that rainfall has been several times higher than normal for this time of year.

“It’s been a persistent pattern for the last couple of weeks,” he said. The jet stream has been lifting storms out of the southwest and bringing them all the way to New England, he said.

“That’s been supported by strong high pressure systems in the Atlantic [Ocean],” he continued. “That has helped to circulate the moisture up and through the Eastern Seaboard.”

When the storms come across Maine, as they have been the last several weeks, all of the moisture gets squeezed out of the system and down it comes, Bloomer explained.

Flood watches remained in effect as the rain began to work its way out of the state toward the Canadian Maritime Provinces. The National Weather Service in Gray posted flood watches in western Maine from Fryeburg to Carrabassett Valley, and also in central and midcoastal parts of the state.

Bloomer said he expected more showers Friday, but a clearing system seems to be approaching.

“Drier air is coming from the west,” he said. “That will bring a change in the weather pattern for the coming week.

“It will be drier conditions with a high pressure system building in,” he said. “We should also have cooler, more seasonable temperatures.

“It looks like we may have a long period of dry weather,” he said.

While the rivers in northern Maine are running high, Bloomer said, they seem to be handling the high amount of water.

Kenneth Michaud, Fort Kent police chief and a river watcher, said the St. John River at Fort Kent hit 16 feet this week. Despite moisture Wednesday and Thursday, the river had been receding and was down to just under 12 feet near noon Friday.

He said Eagle Lake levels are also high, as they were at Long Lake on Friday.

“[Logging] trucks have all stopped this week. They were deep in mud in the woods,” Michaud said.

While the flood watch remained in effect, MEMA duty officer Mark Belserene said ponding in low-lying areas where rain had saturated the soil was more of a problem than rivers and streams spilling over their banks.

“The rivers and streams that usually flood seem to be holding their own,” Belserene said.

A powerful storm system that brought heavy rain up the East Coast on Thursday was blamed for multiple deaths in other states.

Forecasters said the rain would clear out from west to east as a cool front moves through for the weekend, with high temperatures in the 40s to near 50 for Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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