AUGUSTA — The Kennebec River has started to recede after reaching a peak of flooding that was not as significant as officials had feared.
The river was running around 13.4 feet in Augusta at 7 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Flood stage is 12 feet. The water level crested around 17.4 feet sometime around 8 p.m. Wednesday, which is less than the 20-foot high-water mark predicted earlier this week.
Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette said crews already were making plans to clean up the Front Street parking lot, which continues to be at least partially submerged. Audette said the other problem spot, Bond Brook, never flooded and is no longer a threat to flood.
“We’re fortunate,” Audette said. “We see the damage in other parts of the state. Were lucky it wasn’t worse than it was.”
Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said the snow on the ground Wednesday morning might have been greeted with derision by most people in central Maine, but it was a relief for those tasked with responding to the flood. The changeover to snow from rain helped mitigate the risk of greater flooding.
“That change in form really helped us,” Toman said.
The Kennebec River is expected to continue to recede and finally fall below flood stage early Friday morning.
“We’re making plans to clean up after it subsides,” Audette said.
Neither Audette nor Toman had heard of any damage caused by the flooding, but the river typically leaves a deposit of sand, mud, and other items in the Front Street parking lot when the water withdraws back within its banks. Augusta’s public work crews and firefighters, who uses pumps to spray down the parking lot, are responsible for the cleanup.
“You can already see a line of debris forming,” Audette said.
The Arcade parking lot in Gardiner re-opened late Thursday afternoon, though officials urged drivers to keep an eye on Cobbosseecontee Stream for signs of rising. The lot at the waterfront remained closed Thursday night but is likely to reopen Friday morning. Toman lauded drivers for removing their cars before the lots closed at noon Wednesday. The city did not tow a single vehicle, Toman said.
“That’s what we were hoping for,” he said.
Still, Toman urged residents and commuters to sign up for the city’s alert system, which the city uses to send out messages and advisories via email or text. To sign up, visit Nixle.com and click on the “sign up free” icon and follow the registration process.
“That’s a handy tool we use,” Toman said.
In Hallowell, The Kennebec Wharf tavern remained closed Thursday night to clean up, but it announced on its Facebook page that it would reopen at 5 p.m. Friday.
“We mostly just got our feet wet,” the post indicated.
Looking ahead, the weather over the next seven to 10 days should allow snow to melt gradually, said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.
“There’s nothing that looks to produce any renewed flooding,” he said.
The next snow survey for northern and western Maine is set for Monday and Tuesday next week, which will give forecasters a better idea of just how much snow is left. He said cold nights and daily highs in the 40s and 50s should help melt the snow “without causing any issues.”
Toman said as of Thursday the next chance for a significant rainfall is not until late next week.
“Ten days from now, hopefully it won’t amount to much other and some minor inconveniences,” Toman said.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642