The Kennebec River flooded parking lots and parks and spilled into several riverside building basements Wednesday, but damage appeared to be minimal.
Bond Brook in Augusta also was running high and fast Wednesday evening, causing concern among officials. But like the much bigger Kennebec River into which it empties, it was not causing any obvious major damage to nearby buildings.
“Bond Brook is getting really high. We’re watching that right now,” Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette said Wednesday evening. “The Kennebec is into quite a few buildings. It’s coming into the (old) federal building now. There have been no incidents related to the flooding, though. We’re just kind of watching, for now, like everybody else.”
The National Weather Service reported the Kennebec in Augusta was at 17.35 feet at 6:15 p.m., more than five feet above the flood stage of 12 feet.
River levels were expected to peak at 18.22 feet at 10 p.m., according to the Weather Service – lower than earlier projections, which at times predicted the water would crest at 20 feet or more.
The river is expected to begin to recede early Thursday morning, but the level is not expected to drop back below flood stage until Friday.
Front streets in both downtown Augusta and Hallowell were closed to vehicles, and they were covered in water Wednesday and expected to remain so into Thursday.
The flooding is nothing new – or cause for panic – to those who’ve long made their living in buildings on the edge of the river.
“It’s nothing like ’87, that’s for sure,” said Patti Burnett, owner of Dom’s Barber Shop, who has been cutting hair on Water Street in Hallowell since 1978. “I’m not really concerned.”
Water was still several feet from Burnett’s building around 4 p.m. Wednesday. She expected it to reach her basement and had warned tenants of her upstairs apartments to remove their belongings from basement storage bins. She also had the motor pulled out of her furnace.
In 1987, water rose past the level of the barbershop floor, completely covering its back deck. The water flooded up and across Water Street, making it passable by canoe, but not much else.
Traffic was unimpeded by water Wednesday on Water Street, and numerous people visited the waterfront, many with cameras, to check out the fast-moving water.
Tom Allen, owner of Kennebec Cigar, also on Water Street in Hallowell, moved into his shop shortly after the flood of 1987. “I haven’t gotten my feet wet yet,” he joked.
“We’ve seen a few floods here. It’s just a fact of living along the river,” Allen said. “This one’s going to be close. I’m not worried at all. It’s just high water. There’s no sense in panicking.”
Water reached past, and probably into, the Kennebec Wharf. The basement-level Hallowell bar was closed Wednesday and might remain closed Thursday, according to its Facebook page.
Water covered all of Gardiner’s waterfront park along the Kennebec late Wednesday and much of the Arcade parking lot along Cobbosseecontee Stream, but it didn’t appear to have reached the backs of Water Street buildings that abut the Arcade lot.
Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said Tuesday that city officials were planning for flooding at the waterfront and in the Arcade parking lot.
The lot closed at noon Wednesday. Through the overnight hours parking on Water Street, usually regulated hourly, won’t be timed. Toman said drivers must ensure a spot is legal, and if they want to park in a private lot, they should ask business owners
Richard Beausoleil, Kennebec County’s emergency management director, said flooding was in the minor-to-moderate range.
“But I look at it this way: If it’s your basement, it’s major,” he said.
He noted the flooding’s predicted peak had decreased, in part because colder temperatures helped prevent more melting, and thus, less runoff into rivers; and most of the flooding was occurring in the places where flooding usually occurs in Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner.
“We haven’t had any requests for assistance,” Beausoleil said. “Most of the folks near the water are the ones who know to prepare for it. They’ve been through this over and over.”
Burnett said she planned to go to her barbershop around 11 p.m. Wednesday to check on the building, but otherwise she wasn’t worried. She said if the electricity is still on Thursday, she’ll be open.
Staff Writer Craig Crosby contributed to this story.
Keith Edwards cann be contacted at 621-5647 or at: